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June 5, 2015
1 in 4 children in California live in poverty. When you disaggregate children of color, 35% of African-American children and 38% of Latino children in California live in poverty. Approximately 490,000 Latino children and 30,000 African-American children in California are uninsured — half are boys. Those numbers are staggering, particularly when you consider that California has a $2.2 trillion economy, the seventh largest in the world. California’s fiscal health is improving steadily with billions in additional tax revenues coming into the state. Now is the time to take bold state action to invest in the whole child and begin to end child poverty — that starts this budget year. We can ill afford to continue kicking the can down the road.
The state budget is a statement of our priorities and reflects a vision for the future. But more importantly the state budget is a reflection of our morals. It should represent a commitment to investing in the children and families who are often left behind: those who exist in the shadows simply struggling to place food on the table or maintain a roof over their heads. Californians understand that investing in children is an investment in our future. Yet, we must turn rhetoric into action and dedicate the resources to make that investment in ways that will yield the outcomes we all hope for, including a dramatic reduction in the number of California children living in poverty.
The time for real action and commitment from our state leaders to ending child poverty is now –during final budget negotiations. While Governor Brown’s proposed Earned Income Tax Credit for poor families is a positive first step to addressing child poverty, it’s not nearly enough. As a state, we have a long way to go to ensure a level playing field for all California children. We need a bold, comprehensive approach. I propose the following to help us get there:
Even as the California economy has grown, our state budgets have not made the necessary commitments to end the cycle of poverty and give children a strong foundation upon which to grow and succeed. Now is the time for us to put a down-payment on that commitment with a significant investment in the budget this year.
Research suggests that child poverty costs CA $66 billion/year in lost productivity and health & crime costs. Investments to reduce child poverty now pay for themselves by protecting children against the lifelong consequences and costs of poverty and reducing poverty in future generations. By not investing in our future, we are mortgaging it.