California Attorney General Xavier Becerra had a message for the state Senate’s budget writers Thursday: Carrying on the state’s legal fight against President Donald Trump doesn’t come cheap.
The problem, Becerra told a Senate budget subcommittee, is the Department of Justice’s shrinking share of discretionary money from the state budget and increasing reliance on fees reserved for specific duties does not cover the thousands of hours spent to press the state’s legal case against a range Trump administration executive orders and other policies.
“No one anticipated the extent to which federal executive actions would impact the people of California and the Department of Justice,” Becerra told subcommittee members Thursday.
“If it feels like the attacks are constantly coming, it’s because they are,” Becerra added. “The hardworking men and women of the DOJ are doing the best they can to serve our great state. But to fight these fights takes resources.”
His office’s work in recent weeks includes challenging the administration’s proposed travel restrictions and crackdown on sanctuary cities as well as defending the state’s energy-efficiency standards. Department of Justice attorneys also have worked on preserving the U.S. Department of Labor regulation linked to California’s private-sector retirement program, Secure Choice. Legislation to repeal the regulation has passed both houses of Congress.
State Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, the budget subcommittee’s sole Republican, pressed Becerra to quantify how much money his office receives from the federal government and how much could be put at risk by state policies, such as those embodied in Senate Bill 54, the “sanctuary state” bill.
“It makes no sense to give you an increase if your sole focus is to pursue policies that cut off” potentially hundreds of millions of federal dollars. “I don’t see why I would want to backfill someone hellbent on having their budget cut.”
Gov. Jerry Brown’s January budget proposal included $858 million for the Department of Justice in the fiscal year starting July 1, a $33 million increase. All of that money comes from fee-funded special accounts. General fund money, which represents about one-quarter of the proposed budget, would shrink by $6 million under the plan, according to a Senate analysis.
“It’s not possible,” Becerra said of the proposed reduction.