SACRAMENTO, CA — Legislation to create a statewide Universal Basic Income in California passed its first hurdle Monday, as the California Assembly’s Revenue and Taxation Committee approved Assemblymember Evan Low’s AB 65 by a majority vote.
Monday’s hearing marked the first time in the history of the California Legislature that Universal Basic Income (UBI) received a full discussion.
“I’m incredibly thankful to the Committee Chair, Assemblymember Autumn Burke, and colleagues for their open-minded approach to such a revolutionary proposal,” said Assemblymember Low (D-Silicon Valley). “We obviously have an incredible amount of work ahead of us in fleshing out the bill, but right now it’s more important to simply begin the discussion of how a Universal Basic Income could level the playing field and end poverty for millions of Californians.”
AB 65, which was co-authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and is supported by the National Association of Social Workers (California chapter), would provide eligible residents with $1,000 per month in unconditional cash payments in order to provide recipients with a basic level of economic security. Eligibility would be limited to adults who have lived in California for three-plus years and are not currently incarcerated. They must also earn 200% or less of the median per capita income for their respective county of residence. The Franchise Tax Board (FTB) would oversee the program, which is currently estimated to cost between $67-129 billion a year.
“Universal Basic Income would provide Californians with the financial security to take time for personal and creative pursuits, as well as go back to school for better career opportunities,” Assemblymember Low said. “The benefits translate to improvements in mental, physical and economic health.”
Over the last two years, an increasing number of UBI pilot programs have been launched in California, and studies have found the results to be overwhelmingly positive. In the City of Stockton, recipients of a completed UBI program were not only more likely to find full-time jobs, but they also used the money almost exclusively on essential items like food and clothing.
“As the recent federal stimulus package has shown, economic relief for vulnerable Californians can only be achieved by putting cash directly into their pockets,” said Assemblymember Low, who also authored AB 1338, which seeks to shield UBI pilot program participants from having that income taxed and being priced out of public benefit programs.
Kristin McGuire, the Western Region Director of Young Invincibles, a national young adult policy and advocacy organization, applauded the Committee’s decision Monday, while also noting the impact a UBI could have in historically underserved communities in California.
“Universal Basic Income has been heard in the California State Legislature for the very first time. This is more timely than ever as Black and Latino families in California remain disproportionately poor,” McGuire said. “We are seeing the success of local UBI measures across the state and it’s positive, lasting impact on those communities. We are pleased to see Assemblymember Low and the State Assembly lead on this timely and significant vote to support all Californians in attaining the American Dream.”
Studies have found that the top 1% of earners in the United States now have more money than the bottom 90% of Americans. More than 36% of California’s residents are at or near the poverty level, according to the Census Bureau.
“The difference between the haves and the have-notes has never been greater,” Assemblymember Low said. “When we ask who bears the cost for this concentration of wealth, the answer is: all of us. The Legislature not only has the ability to restore dignity to workers and make sure parents can afford to keep their children fed and healthy — we also have the responsibility to strive for the best standard of living possible for all Californians.”
AB 65 will now proceed to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.
Assemblymember Low represents Silicon Valley in the California State Assembly. He serves as the Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, Chair of the state’s Business and Professions Committee, and Vice Chair of the Asian & Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. He also serves as co-Chair of the California Legislative Technology & Innovation Caucus.