Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to make California the first state to cover all low-income state residents under its Medicaid plan regardless of their immigration status.

Backed by soaring revenues amid the pandemic, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday proposed a budget that would pay for the health care of all the state’s low-income residents living in the country illegally, while cutting taxes for businesses and halting a scheduled increase in the gas tax later this summer.

California taxpayers already pay for the health care of young adults and people 50 and over living in the country illegally, provided they meet certain income requirements. Now, Newsom wants California to become the first state to cover all adults who are living in the country illegally, a move that would eventually cost $2.2 billion per year.

“We’re doing something that no other state has done,” Newsom said.

Newsom said his $286.4 billion budget proposal tackles five of the state’s biggest problems — what his administration called “existential threats” — including the surging coronavirus pandemic; wildfires and drought worsened by global warming; homelessness; income inequality including the lack of health insurance for some immigrants; and public safety, including combatting a recent flurry of coordinated smash-and-grab robberies.

The “existential” label is usually applied to climate change and the pandemic, Newsom acknowledged, but he said homelessness, the rising cost of living and public safety are “understandably top of mind in terms of people’s concerns.

The governor said his budget includes a $45.7 billion surplus, which is larger than previous estimates because his administration uses a different definition of what counts as surplus.

The proposed $2.2 billion program to aid immigrants in the country illegally would not take effect until January 2024 to include “all low-income Californians, regardless of immigration status,” Newsom said.

The state has made great strides in reducing its uninsured population in recent years, but the largest single group left behind under the state’s Medicaid program are low-income residents in the country illegally.

The state began covering immigrants 26 and under in 2019, and those 50 and older last year.

The governor’s budget address kicks off months of haggling with his fellow Democrats who control the state Legislature, talks that will intensify when Newsom presents an updated spending proposal in May.



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