By Toni G. Atkins | Speaker of Assembly
As I embarked on this year’s legislative session, one of my primary motivators was a 2014 Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) report showing half of California’s children live in poverty or near poverty. This spurred my colleagues and I to work harder to seek solutions for Californians who are facing economic hardship.
The result was the $380 million that the Assembly pushed to include in this year’s budget for California’s first-ever state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
Thankfully, Gov. Jerry Brown agreed that it was the right thing to do. Our EITC will help 2 million hard-working, low-income Californians. It will inject money into local economies up and down the state, lift 50,000 working people out of poverty, lift another 50,000 people out of deep poverty and help 150,000 struggling San Diego County residents.
Another step we took was to provide $263 million for a comprehensive package of child-care services that will make it easier for struggling Californians to look for work or keep their jobs while taking care of their families’ needs.
Obviously, California’s high cost of living is a huge barrier to escaping poverty. Hard-working Californians are finding it more and more difficult to afford housing, and family budgets are increasingly burdened by high housing costs and that’s why the Assembly Democrats passed legislation to ease the state’s housing crisis.
Affordable housing has always been an issue close to me, because I remember what it was like to grow up in sub-standard housing.
To create more affordable housing for low-income residents, the Legislature passed AB 35, which expands the Low Income Housing Tax Credit by $100 million, a fiscally responsible increase that would build on a proven program and generate badly needed investment in affordable housing. This tax credit is one of the best tools we’ve had to help with this crisis, as it is an effective method to spur public-private partnerships that lead to construction of affordable new rental housing. We await the Governor’s decision on this critical piece of legislation.
The Legislature and the governor also increased funding to the CalWORKS Housing Support Program to $35 million, a bump from last year’s initial $20 million. The program was in high demand from counties statewide when it began in 2014. The enhanced funding will help us rescue even more families from homelessness.
I also want to acknowledge the $1.1 billion in drought relief we provided this session. It helps secure our future water supply and supports a number of communities that right now need a potable water supply, while keeping a promise we made to voters last year with the water bond.
I particularly want to thank all my colleagues in the Assembly and the Senate, as well as Gov. Brown and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León for their partnership in helping Californians who are hardest hit by poverty.
While we’ve done a lot this year to fight poverty in California, there is still more work to do and I look forward to a productive session next year.
Around the District: Pleased to spend time last month with our “Navy Mayor,” Rear Admiral Markham Rich and to hear from the San Diego Military Advisory Council. The council, in a new study, documented the military’s remarkable impact on San Diego — it pumps almost $25 billion into our regional economy, leading to 328,000 jobs. Another interesting fact: The number of Navy ships here is set to jump 63 percent in the next eight years, from 49 to 80 … Hope you can drop by for our regional Small Business Resources Fair and Information Forum at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 15 at Qualcomm Hall, 5775 Morehouse Drive. I’ll join Assemblymember Brian Maienschein in welcoming experts to give you advice on tapping into state programs to boost your business, including the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development … I was happy to return home after the Legislature’s session ended Sept. 11. It’s been great to take part in events like AIDS Walk San Diego and the Adams Avenue Street Fair and to be able to spend more time with my constituents in their communities again!
—Toni G. Atkins is the Speaker of the California State Assembly. For more information, please visit her website, asmdc.org/speaker where you can sign up for her e-newsletter or get the latest news on legislation and other activities. You also may follow her on Twitter, @toniatkins.