California lawmakers on Thursday passed a budget that would make the state the first to offer health insurance benefits to undocumented immigrants.
The benefits, included in a nearly $215 billion budget, would make low-income immigrants without legal status between the ages of 19 and 25 eligible for Medicaid. An estimated 90,000 people would qualify for the program, which would cost about $98 million a year.
“What a luxury we have, to get to stand here and argue over where we should put our savings, how we should spend some of the additional money we have to support struggling Californians,” Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D) said, according to The Associated Press.
Democrats are largely supportive of the Medicaid provision, while Republicans say the funding is misplaced.
“I just don’t get the prioritization,” state Sen. John Moorlach (R) said of the funding for Medicaid for some undocumented immigrants.
The budget also provides support to middle-class families with monthly health insurance premiums and boosts funding for education and the state’s top firefighting agency. The measure also will revive an individual mandate penalty, part of the Affordable Care Act, by taxing individuals who do not have health insurance.
Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomBiden administration launches new national initiative to fight homelessness Equity is key to resilience — three ways make it a priority Juan Williams: Shame on the anti-mandate Republicans MORE (D) is expected to sign the budget into law. He has shrugged off calls from lawmakers that the undocumented immigrant provision should cover all adults, noting the $3.4 billion price tag.
Lawmakers are expected to vote on bills next week to finalize the details of the budget.