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Governor Brown Gets Push Back On Poverty


"That’s why we expanded the affordable care act, that’s why we’re investing money in the workforce investment act," Governor Jerry Brown said during his budget proposal on Friday morning.

In releasing his annual budget proposal, California Governor Jerry Brown defended his administration’s efforts to address California’s high poverty rate. He says just under $40 billion, about a third of the General Fund budget, will go to programs that support low income Californians. 

Brown’s budget proposal also includes additional spending for K-12 students. USC Public Policy Professor Gary Painter says that kind of spending is key if the state really wants to reduce its poverty rate.

“What’s been of greatest concern here in California in recent years is that we’ve taken our investments out of things like education, which have been proven to enhance the life chances of people and allow people who start off poor to move up the ladder.” 

Democratic Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins welcomes the increased social services spending, which had been devastated in recent years by budget cuts. Atkins often says the economic recovery has not reached all Californians. But while she appreciates Brown’s proposed spending, she’s not satisfied.

“We’re doing a lot for poverty in California and it’s not enough. It is not enough. There is where we might differ in terms of I get to have the luxury as a legislator to push to get more of those programs done," says Atkins. 

Mike Herald, with the Western Center on Law and Poverty is not so diplomatic. He says the governor is not proposing anything that would actually lower the poverty rate. Herald says CalWorks, the state’s welfare program, must be updated and grants to the blind, aged and disabled should be increased. 

“All of these kinds of proposal were completely ignored and not one penny of the billions in new revenue that we’re getting in the current budget, in the proposed budget are going to alleviate those concerns.” 

Republicans are taking a cautious approach to Brown’s proposed spending increases. Assembly member Melissa Melendez says she agrees the state should help people in need, but...

“There are a lot of needs in California. And everybody has their hand out saying we need this much money for this program, for this activity," says Melendez. "We have to balance it all. We can’t just give it all away to one group. So it is a careful balance and it has to be a thoughtful balance.” 

Brown argues California has done more than many states to address poverty. USC’s Painter says other states have solid track records of helping low income families. But he says Brown’s claim may be true if the only consideration is the amount of money spent. And, like Brown, Painter says California can’t solve the problem alone.

“It has to be a partnership with the federal government, it has to be a partnership with the philanthropists in the state. I don’t think that any state government, any local government can be expected to successfully address some of the challenges that surround long-term poverty.” 

Painter says California is a largely immigrant state and many people arrive here without resources to survive. But he says if the state spends wisely it can help those people advance and improve the economy while lowering the poverty rate.