Poverty in California, and what else the state should do about it, has emerged as a major issue early in the months-long process of negotiating a state budget.
After Gov. Jerry Brown released his spending proposal Jan. 9, advocates for the poor held rallies in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities, saying that California needs to do more to reduce poverty and income inequality. Many Democratic lawmakers have voiced the same concerns.
Brown contends that the state already helps the poor a lot. And under the state’s school-funding guarantee, officials say virtually all of the billions in additional revenue through June 2016 will go to schools and community colleges, with little free money with which to expand or create new social or health programs to reduce poverty and income inequality.
“You’re going to have to explain to your advocacy groups, your constituents, why is it that you can have funding going up by $4 billion, and none of it is available for” non-education purposes, Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor told the Assembly Budget Committee earlier this month.
Some lawmakers represent areas where poverty is a central part of constituents’ daily lives. In some legislative districts, poverty rates are more than double the state average of 16.6 percent, according to the U.S. Census’ most recent American Community Survey. In others, the poverty rates are barely a quarter of the California average.