Capitol Alert

Nonprofit leaders propose tax to fight poverty

In a 2013 filie photo, resource teacher Sally Evey, left, works with Headstart students at Washington Elementary School in downtown Sacramento. A proposed ballot measure would tax high-value properties to help pay for an expansion of anti-poverty programs.
In a 2013 filie photo, resource teacher Sally Evey, left, works with Headstart students at Washington Elementary School in downtown Sacramento. A proposed ballot measure would tax high-value properties to help pay for an expansion of anti-poverty programs. rpench@sacbee.com

Less than a month after California lawmakers approved a state budget that included more money to help people in poverty, leaders of several Southern California nonprofits have proposed a November 2016 ballot measure that would target hundreds of millions of dollars at additional anti-poverty efforts.

The “Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act” would impose a surcharge of up to 1 percent on real estate with assessed values more than $3 million. Proponents say the surcharge would raise an estimated $7.7 billion, with almost all of that coming from commercial properties.

“There are some terrific things that the Legislature did, but we’re looking to come up with a comprehensive solution and come up with a funding stream,” consultant Bill Carrick, an adviser to the sponsors, said of the proposal.

Carrick said backers have yet to line up much of the money needed to gather signatures and, if the measure qualified for the ballot, run a statewide campaign. The measure’s proponents include former Board of Equalization member Conway Collis, Jim Mangia of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, and Martine Singer of Para Los Niños.

The initiative would expand existing home-visit prenatal and early childhood services, childcare and preschool programs. The measure would provide full-day preschool for all 3- and 4-year-old children of families with incomes below the federal poverty line.

There also would be more money to expand job training and hiring-incentive programs, increase payments to CalWORKS participants, and create a more expansive earned income tax credit.

To pay for the expansion, properties with assessed values ranging from $3 million to $5 million would pay a surcharge of of 0.3 percent. The surcharge would increase depending on a property’s assessed value, up to 1 percent.

Lawmakers have focused on poverty this year. The state budget approved last month added child care slots and creates a state version of the federal earned income tax credit meant to help the lowest-paid workers.

Yet some advocates for the poor have noted the challenge of getting eligible people to apply for the credit. And at a committee hearing earlier this month, State Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, downplayed the credit’s impact. “This is not the answer to poverty,” he said.

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