On August 12, Women’s Foundation of California President and CEO Judy Patrick testified before the California Commission on the Status of Women. Judy spoke on behalf of women and girls and addressed the devastating impact budget cuts have had on California’s women, girls and families and the importance of funding safety net programs and education.
Read the full testimony below.
Watch video of the testimony on the website of The California Channel. Footage starts at 38 minutes.
Good afternoon and thank you for your investment of time and discernment in listening to issues that impact the well-being of California’s women and their families. My name is Judy Patrick and I’m the President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California, a 30 year-old statewide organization that holds a vision of California as a state where women and their families are safe, economically secure and healthy.
Today I want to speak about the eroding safety net for low income women and their families and education funding.
It almost goes without saying that our safety net has experienced long term erosion and is very battered. For example, the current maximum CalWORKS monthly cash grant for a family of three is $694. This is equivalent to 45.5 percent of the federal poverty line and is the exact amount that a family received in 1989–90 without adjustment for inflation. This can hardly be called a safety net.
We have lost the principle of economic rights of everyone to adequate housing, food, health care and employment—the key tenants of the social safety net advanced by presidents Roosevelt and Johnson and declared by Eleanor Roosevelt in the International Declaration of Human Rights in 1945.
In economic times where the government should help families and individuals make ends meet, California is seriously failing.
In addition, at a time when an increasingly global economy is demanding that public educational institutions step up to a new challenge, California is racing to the bottom. While most of the nation is experiencing a severe recession, California’s support for schools lags the nation. Whether looking at per-student spending, education spending as a percentage of personal income or number of students per teacher, California ranks in the bottom 10 percent of the nation. We cannot remain competitive globally, build a workforce that can produce future tax revenues for the state or attract businesses that will build the California economy unless we can provide an educated workforce. While this impacts all state residents, it particularly impacts women who, in spite of over 40 years of work on equal pay, continue to be undercompensated when compared to their male counterparts.
Solutions to both of these problems rest in developing the political will to preserve what remains of a safety net and build its strength and to increase funding for education. While there are expense budget solutions to these problems, we cannot solve these problems without increasing revenues. In the last 15 years, California has cut taxes to the point that we now have $10 billion less in tax revenues each year. This does not account for the impact of the recession on taxes.
I recommend that:
- At the very least, we ask the legislature to adopt the recommendations for this year’s budget advanced by the Budget Conference Committee on August 6. While these offer some short term solutions to some of the draconian safety net cuts put forward in the Governor’s budget, they at least preserve a bit of a safety net. I can provide more specific recommendations about specific programs. In addition, they recommend some increases in revenues and these should be adopted.
- The recommendations from the Public Policy Institute of California regarding school finance reform and achievement growth.
- A blue print for a new safety net must be developed for the next governor. Part of this plan should include how the state can achieve more services through achieving great efficiencies and coordination among existing agencies, how to fully access federal money for emergency TANF dollars and Family PACT, thereby increasing resources available for our safety nets. The Foundation is willing to provide leadership and partnership in this effort.
- That we tax oil resource extractors, extend the sales tax to services and revisit Proposition 13.
- The state free up resources for education and safety net programs by developing the administrative and legislative mandates to reduce incarceration of nonviolent offenders for nonserious crimes. Passage of Senator Liu’s SB 1266 is one step in this direction.
- The legislature roles back the tax cuts of 2008, 2009 and 2010.