Legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown reached a budget agreement this week. The governor is determined avoid an enormous debt as his legacy so he based his budget on very conservative revenue projections. The budget as it now stands includes many items that the California Catholic Conference (CCC) was advocating for, but also some glaring omissions.
One measure that was not included in the governor’s budget was the Maximum Family Grant (MFG). Currently families receiving assistance are barred from receiving extra money if another child is born. (The extra money is roughly $130 a month.)
There is still hope that the MFG could be repealed with the passage of SB 23. With this bill, we have the opportunity to reduce the number of children living in poverty and more importantly, eliminate the need to terminate a pregnancy. The CCC is continuing to advocate for passage of this important bill.
Many poverty advocates see this as a missed opportunity to help the very poor. “It is morally and ethically wrong that we haven’t done what we should as legislative leaders to pull children out of poverty,” said Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles).
Catholic Advocacy Day issues that are included in this budget are funding for Naturalization Services Program (NSP) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Although not the $20 million as originally requested, $15 million for a variety of immigration programs including NSP which provides grants to non-profits that provide legal services to legal permanent residents who are trying to become U.S. Citizens.
The EITC will help two million of the poorest Californians. This tax credit helps working families make ends meet and gives them a much-needed income boost.
Together with other faith-based groups the CCC advocated for the expansion of opportunities and investments in quality pre-schooling and child care, with a preferential option for the poor. An additional $265 million was secured to improve access for almost 14,000 children to quality, affordable early childhood programs for those most in need.
Another success for both sides was healthcare for undocumented children. Medi-Cal was expanded to cover these children. This was praised by many as a more sensible approach, to invest in their primary care now rather than more costly emergency care at a later date.
There are still ongoing disputes on the budget. Brown will most likely call a special session later this year to resolve disagreements over health care and transportation funding. California’s highways are in disrepair and because cars are more fuel-efficient, less gasoline means less gas tax revenue. The money generated from this tax, is not enough to maintain the state’s highways.
Another nagging issue is Medi-Cal funding. Due to the Affordable Care Act, more people are eligible for Medi-Cal but because state-provider rates were cut so much, there is a shortage of doctors willing to accept these patients.
When this session is over in September, many legislators look forward to spending time back in their districts. With these issues looming, it may be a very short break.