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Atkins, de Leon Lay Out Legislative Priorities

Office of Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins

Incoming Senate President Kevin de Leon and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins speak at a PPIC event on Monday, Oct. 6, 2014.

Office of Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins

The California legislature will be under new leadership when it reconvenes in December. Today the top Democrats laid out their agendas for the coming session.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and incoming-Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Leon both say addressing poverty will be among their top priorities. At an event with the Public Policy Institute of California both Atkins and de Leon talked about growing up poor and say education was what helped them advance. And Atkins says education is the key to helping end poverty in California.

"Because, economists tell you invest in the education of your people and you will grow jobs,” he says. “Now that’s a long term strategy, clearly we have to do something sooner for areas that need job growth.”

de Leon and Atkins agree that the state must invest more in social programs while remaining economically stable. But they’re not in total agreement about how to do that. Both support the rainy day fund on the November ballot. De Leon says it may be time to talk about extending it.  

"Is there a Prop 30 part two, part three, a junior, or light? A conversation, if you will, on the discussion,” he says. “Because, if not and the economy does not grow then we are in a situation back again where we’re making cuts.”

Atkins says she’s hearing talk around Sacramento about extending the tax increase. But she’s worried about how that would play with voters who approved a temporary measure.

"The rest of California is real people living their daily lives who voted to support this to help the state out and they did,” he says. “And I think we need to be very careful about how we approach how easy it will be to expand that.”

The sales tax portion of Prop 30 is scheduled to terminate at the end of 2016. The income tax portion will sunset at the end of 2018.

Incoming Republican Assembly Leader Kristin Olsen says Prop 30 should not be extended. Instead she says the legislature should focus on other issues.

"How can we make California attractive for jobs again? How can we improve our schools so that every child has an opportunity to access an excellent education?” she asks.

Olsen says addressing those questions will help reduce poverty in the state.