California Lawmakers Agree to Reimburse Recall Costs

Lawmakers said counties strapped for cash due to the pandemic should not have to shoulder costs related to the upcoming recall election of Governor Gavin Newsom.

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool, File)

(CN) — Democratic lawmakers in California vowed to reimburse local jurisdictions for the approximately $200 million in costs associated with the likely impending recall election of Governor Gavin Newsom.

Lawmakers also indicated the recall election could take place earlier than November, possibly as early as August.

“Our local communities don’t deserve to be saddled with unnecessary recall costs as they work to recover from the pandemic,” said Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon,  D-Lakewood, in a statement Thursday.

The California Department of Finance pegged the cost of the recall election at around $215 million, not counting costs incurred by the secretary of state. But since the $215 million would fall on county election departments already grappling with reduced budgets, lawmakers said the state will step in.

“The Legislature will lift the burden from their plate and include $215 million in the budget bill to have the state cover the costs,” Atkins and Rendon said.

While California Secretary of State Shirley Weber continues to count valid signatures from petitions collected throughout the state — and fielding requests from people who signed the recall petition to remove their names — it is all but certain recall organizers met the required threshold.

Money for the election is not presently allocated in the budget but lawmakers have until July 1 to finalize the state spending plan.

The election had been widely anticipated to occur in the fall, but comments from lawmakers Thursday indicate the date could come earlier.

“In addition, this funding will allow for an earlier recall election,” Atkins and Rendon said in their statement. 

Democrats and Newsom supporters have derided the recall effort as a costly and partisan exercise rendered unnecessary by the fact Newsom is already up for reelection in 2022.

Republicans and Newsom critics contend the state will save money by ousting the current Governor and that his handling of the pandemic has rendered the matter urgent.

“Given Newsom’s track record, recalling him will save California billions,” Gus Portela, a spokesman for former San Diego Mayor and gubernatorial hopeful Kevin Faulconer, told The Associated Press.

Faulconer, a moderate Republican, is widely regarded as the candidate with the best chance of replacing Newsom. Recent polling, however, indicates Newsom still enjoys a relatively high and stable approval rating in the state.

Nevertheless, Republicans continue to throw hats in the ring, buoyed by a perception that Californians are frustrated by coronavirus restrictions that were some of the strictest in the nation. The state is one of a few to keep its mask mandate in place despite U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations that vaccinated Americans could ditch the mask in mid-May.

However, Newsom continues to receive majority approval for his handling of the pandemic according to the polls. And the state officially “reopens” and drops most of the coronavirus restrictions still in place on June 15.

Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley entered the race last week. John Cox, a businessman who lost handedly to Newsom in 2018, is also running, as is former Olympian and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner.

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