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Legislators return to the state Capitol on May 5 for the first time in nearly two months, confronting an urgent need to deal with coronavirus legislation including workers’ compensation, and a formidable budget deficit.

The coronavirus pandemic has blown a multibillion-dollar hole in California’s budget, one that is likely to force Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers to make difficult decisions in the years to come.

The story published in the San Francisco Chronicle claims that the shortfall is likely to total roughly $35 billion in 2020-21 alone, the nonpartisan state legislative analyst told senators who convened a special budget hearing on the coronavirus Thursday in Sacramento. The shortfall could snowball by an additional $85 billion in the years that follow, Legislative Analyst Gabriel Petek said.

“If budget problems of this magnitude were to emerge, they would exceed the state’s reserves,” Petek said, in something of an understatement.

The surplus that the Legislature, Newsom and former Gov. Jerry Brown accumulated over the past decade totals about $21 billion, about $4 billion of which will probably be needed this year to meet the constitutional requirement of a balanced state budget.

And they don’t have much time to get it all done. They must pass a balanced budget by June 15 or go without pay, and will have only a couple of months after that to consider other bills before the legislative session is scheduled to end.

California still faces problems that existed before the pandemic, Rendon said, including the lack of affordable housing, widespread homelessness, climate change and lack of access to clean water in some parts of the state.

Assembly Bill 664, would amend LC 4663 and add LC 3212.8 to re-define “injury,” for certain state and local firefighting personnel, peace officers, certain hospital employees, and certain fire and rescue services coordinators who work for the Office of Emergency Services. The bill would create a conclusive presumption, that a communicative disease injury arose out of and in the course of the employment.

Senate Bill 1159, would make changes to LC 3202.86 to make disputable (rather than conclusive) presumptions pertaining to injury caused by COVID-19. The bill would apply to anyone deemed to be a “critical worker.”

Since most first responders such as firefighters and peace officers are employed by governmental entities, the costs of these two measures for the most part will be paid by taxpayers, and will be a burden on existing overburdened governmental budgets.

They must also handle bills ranging from compensation for sick essential workers to planning for a November election that’s likely to be done mostly by mail.