California Coronavirus Update: Governor Gavin Newsom Wants Broad Authority, Little Oversight In Distribution Of COVID Funds, Say Officials

From left to right: Phil Ting, Anthony Rendon, Gavin Newsom, Toni Atkins, Holly Mitchell. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rich Pedroncelli/AP/Shutterstock

Top-ranking state lawmaker Sen. Holly Mitchell — a Democrat who represents Culver City, Ladera Heights, Westmont, Crenshaw, Downtown and Florence — argued on Monday that Gavin Newsom’s revised budget proposal would give the governor broad latitude over coronavirus-related spending decisions.

Newsom unveiled an updated budget proposal last week that adjusts for the impacts of the coronavirus and would expand the state’s COVID-19 emergency fund by $2.9 billion dollars.

In its analysis of the revised budget, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office wrote that, “In many cases, we are very troubled by the degree of authority that the administration is requesting that the Legislature delegate,” the analyst’s office wrote.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office stressed that Newsom’s proposal provokes “serious concerns about the Legislature’s role in future decisions.

“In a number of areas across the budget,” said the Analyst’s Office, “the administration asks that the Legislature delegate significant authority to the executive branch. In these cases, we urge the Legislature to jealously guard its constitutional role and authority.”

This analysis comes on the heels of controversy over Newsom’s ssecretive $1-billion deal to purchase protective masks from a Chinese electric-car maker.

Newsom and a coalition of western state governors have also asked the Federal Government for an additional $1 trillion in aid.

Mitchell, Chairwoman of the powerful Senate Budget Committee, raised her concerns during a Monday budget hearing about the fund that would be used for masks, medical supplies and hospital surge preparations.

A representative of the governor’s Department of Finance, Vivek Viswanathan, told the senator that the proposal is meant to give the administration “flexibility” to respond in the event of second wave of coronavirus cases, or another emergency.

“This is a once in a century emergency,” said Viswanathan, “and nobody knows how it’s going to go.”

But Mitchell was unconvinced. “We fully appreciate the need for the administration to be nimble and be empowered to respond in a timely manner,” the Chairwoman said. “But I think it’s very important that the administration find a way to balance your ability to respond timely with acknowledging the role the Legislature must play.”

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