Soapbox

California, we have a problem: Too many of us are poor

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon discuss a bill to increase child-care subsidies for poor families at the Capitol in 2015. Advocates say the state needs to do more to address poverty.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon discuss a bill to increase child-care subsidies for poor families at the Capitol in 2015. Advocates say the state needs to do more to address poverty. AP file

California is the proud home of tech giants, innovation and innovative public policies on important issues like climate change.

But we have a problem: 18 million people, more than 1 in 3 Californians, live near or below the poverty line.

 
Opinion

It’s a problem compounded by a number of issues. Five million residents are stuck in minimum wage jobs. The dream of homeownership is slipping further away as housing costs continue to rise. Our crumbling infrastructure makes it difficult for people to live close to where they work.

But it is during these uncertain times that Californians rise together to fix it. We’ve done it before and we must do it again – and that is what the California Economic Summit is taking on at its annual meeting this week in San Diego.

Here’s what we know needs to happen. We need to create a comprehensive policy agenda to lift people out of poverty and into the middle class. We must prepare more skilled workers for the new economy in green tech and health care through strategies such as the Community College Strong Workforce Program.

We will build on the Legislature’s achievements this year to address the state’s housing crisis. The bills that Gov. Jerry Brown signed are a good start, but it will take years to find a long-term solution to a problem that exists in every county.

We must also accelerate awareness of our fragile water supply into real sustainability and resilience. No matter what part of California you live in, workforce, housing and infrastructure loom as big issues.

The 500 individuals expected to attend the summit starting Thursday will be asked to endorse the principles of equity, prosperity and sustainability. We will organize to advance a public policy agenda to improve the lives of all Californians.

Joaquin Arambula, a Fresno Democrat, represents California’s 31st Assembly District and can be contacted at Assemblymember.Arambula@assembly.ca.gov. Lenny Mendonca is co-chairman of California Forward’s Leadership Council and can be contacted at lenny@themendoncas.net.

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