Going for Broke: California's Reparations Tax Force Ups Potential Payouts to $1.2M Per Person

May 3, 2023

California's reparations task force is considering its most generous recommended payouts yet, including up to $1.2 million for some longtime black residents.

The task force laid out the latest numbers in a draft plan that members will discuss at their monthly meeting on Saturday. According to the report, based on input from economic advisers, the payment projections are an "economically conservative initial assessment."

Launched in 2020 at the height of the Black Lives Matter fervor, the state-appointed panel has mooted a series of wildly expensive plans to compensate black residents for slavery and racism. Meanwhile, a few high-profile members have sought to downplay expectations of any actual cash reparations from the deeply indebted state.

In the new report, the task force says that black Californians are owed thousands of dollars for every year they've spent in the state. That's due to myriad alleged harms inflicted on them at different times, including mass incarceration, home loan discrimination, unequal access to health care, medical discrimination, and pollution.

In compensation for pollution and other so-called health harms, for example, the recommendations are $13,619 per average person per year, or $966,921 for an average lifetime.

"Delay of reparations is in itself an injustice that causes more suffering and may ultimately deny justice, especially to the elderly among the harmed," the report says.

The task force further suggests that state leaders tell the public that reparations are just a "substantial initial down payment" on a much larger debt.

Even after two years, the task force has yet to decide which black residents should qualify for reparations. California was never a slave state, and the panel has debated whether only descendants of chattel slaves deserve compensation.

The task force has not addressed the financial feasibility of any of its proposals, nor does it intend to do so. That job will fall to the state legislature when it debates the recommendations. California was facing a $23 billion budget hole earlier this year—a crisis that most officials believe has grown worse as the state awaits Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom's budget revision, to be released next week.

Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D.), who sits on the task force, has been spreading the word in sympathetic media outlets that the "actual meat" of reparations will be policies that stop racism—not cash payments.