Yesterday, Governor Brown released his budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year. The Women’s Foundation of California reviewed the proposal through the lens of its impact on low-income women and their families, with a particular focus on enhancement of the economic well-being of women. We believe that our State budget is a statement of what we value and it is our job to ensure these values are preserved and enhanced.
We are relieved to see no new reductions to the CalWORKs program and were heartened that the Governor’s education proposal provides more funding for those communities with disproportional needs. It is our hope that he will extend this same thinking to other publicly funded programs, as having more resources for schools alone will not save those children who come to school hungry from communities that are severely under resourced. We must rebuild a system of supports for all Californians.
We continue to urge that the Governor view early childhood education in the continuum of the overall education framework. Robust research in the past ten years validates the pivotal importance of the first five years of a child’s development. Our subsidized child care programs support a dual goal—parents earning and children learning—and should be seen as the first plank in California’s path to economic recovery. We encourage the Administration to include the State Department of Education as a joint convener of the stakeholders group to review the child care system.
We acknowledge that reductions to child care are small compared to previous years, but remain urgently concerned about the accessibility of quality child care in California for our lowest income families. Since 2008, child care funding has been reduced by more than $1 billion and we currently serve 111,095 fewer children than we did in 2008. These reductions total close to 1/3 of the funds available in 2008. This dramatic decline in funding does not, however, represent a declining need. At any point in this time period, there have been some 200,000 fully eligible low-income families on waiting lists across the state.
While we agree that balanced budget is important, we also emphasize that there is room for rebuilding going forward. The budget may be balanced but poverty in California is higher than it has ever been; it’s the highest poverty rate in the country. At this moment nearly 25% of Californians live in extreme poverty and these Californians are disproportionately women and children. Is this the California we want? The extreme budget cutting demanded by the recession has disproportionately eroded support and jobs for these Californians.
We need more than a balanced budget. We need to envision a California where more Californians can thrive and have true opportunity.
Yesterday the Governor talked about the challenge and “heartburn” on the road to sustainable balance and about his mission to do what is “compassionate.” In our collective, civil efforts to define that compassion, we believe that new revenue sources must be considered.
Last June, we sponsored a special hearing convened by Betty Yee from the State Board of Equalization to examine revenue potential from existing tax credits and deductions. By closing just four of the current deductions (deduction for mortgage interest on second homes, capping mortgage interest at $500,000 for principle homes, shifts in taxes on inherited property, slight alteration in the charitable gift deduction), we could realize over $1.1 billion of new revenue. This vital funding could, for example, close the child care funding deficit that has mounted since 2008.
We hope you will share your thoughts about what’s important to you in California. We also welcome the opportunity to work with the Administration and members of the Assembly and Senate as budget discussion, deliberation and decisions move forward in the weeks and months ahead.