Newsom Spent 2 Years and $2.5M of Taxpayer Money on Reparations Plan Before Balking

California governor appointed five of the task force's nine members, now won't implement task force's recommendations

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (Getty Images)
May 11, 2023

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D.) on Tuesday declined to endorse the recommendations of a state-appointed task force on paying reparations to African Americans that he himself put together, after the panel spent millions of taxpayer dollars to arrive at its answer.

The governor signed legislation to create the first-in-the-nation task force at the height of the Black Lives Matter fervor in 2020, stating that the establishment of a reparations panel pushed California in the "right direction to building a more inclusive and equitable future for all." And ahead of the launch of the task force in 2021, Newsom appointed five of its nine members.

Over the years, Newsom and the Democrat-dominated state house funded the task force to the tune of $2.5 million, enough to bankroll economic consultants, travel costs, and per diem payments for the panel's members as they drafted proposals on how to compensate black Californians for generations of discrimination.

Yet only after the task force voted Saturday to approve a set of recommendations on reparations—expected to cost the indebted state at least $800 million, more than 2.5 times California's annual budget—did Newsom pooh-pooh the idea of cash reparations.

"Dealing with that legacy [of slavery] is about much more than cash payments," the governor said in a statement that praised the task force's work but stopped short of endorsing any of it.

Newsom had signaled a growing frustration with the reparations task force, which struggled to reach conclusions on the question of how much black residents were owed. In 2022, with the panel seemingly nowhere close to agreeing on a final plan, Newsom vetoed a bill to extend its work by a year.

Newsom said he spent more than five months conducting interviews and giving "careful consideration" to the question of whom he would put on the task force, which he said would ensure "that everyone has a fair shot at achieving the California dream." The reparations task force just last week upped the potential payment to black residents to $1.2 million.

The governor's office did not respond to a request for comment.