- Associated Press - Thursday, January 29, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The leader of the state Senate said Thursday that it is imperative California expand child care for working mothers and suggested Gov. Jerry Brown would make room for it if he had more education about the plight of the working poor.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat who grew up in a San Diego barrio, said during a luncheon address to the Sacramento Press Club that he will push Brown to provide money in the state budget for child care for the poor.

“I think that perhaps the governor just needs some more education so that he can, you know, better understand what’s happening in California,” de Leon said.

The Democratic governor released a record $113 billion state spending plan that rejects new spending. Despite surging tax revenues, Brown argues that the budget is precariously balanced and the state should prepare for the next economic downturn rather than expand social service programs as some Democrats would like.

The governor’s office declined to comment Thursday.

Brown has defended his plan, noting that about a third of the budget is dedicated to serving the poor through child care, health care and other programs. “We do the best we can,” he said in releasing his budget earlier this month.

De Leon said he will introduce legislation to expand state subsidized child care for working parents.

Although past lawmakers have failed to significantly expand subsidized child care, de Leon said it remains a serious issue. His office, however, did not provide details of his proposal and could not provide a cost estimate.

“I know the historical track record has not been very good,” de Leon said. “This is a very serious issue: If women cannot find child care, then they simply cannot participate in the workforce.”

As the youngest child of an immigrant mother with a third-grade education, de Leon said he saw the difficult choices women must make.

“Often times I was left alone at the house since the age of 5 years old while my mother worked her fingers to the bone cleaning homes in the wealthiest enclaves of America - La Jolla as well as Coronado,” he said.

While he argued that welfare, child care and other human assistance programs should be increased, he acknowledged that lawmakers have their hands tied by the state’s education funding requirement, which receives nearly all the surplus.

“There’s not a lot to play with,” he said. “We have to look at a prudent fashion how much do we really have to play with realistically.”

Using Brown’s own words, de Leon argued it would be fiscally prudent to invest in education. He said it was premature to take a serious look at extending the temporary taxes under Proposition 30 that are set to phase out by 2018, but said he thinks the idea of raising taxes deserves debate.

De Leon said he wasn’t offended that he and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, were left out of negotiations on higher education funding, which has emerged as a contentious topic as students protest proposed tuition increases.

Brown and University of California President Janet Napolitano will form an unusual “committee of two” to look at ways to resolve their standoff, in which Brown opposes tuition increases and Napolitano says they are necessary. The UC Board of Regents approved raising tuition by up to 5 percent in each of the next five years unless the state gives the university more money.

“I don’t necessarily feel left out,” said de Leon, who has proposed increasing funding along with reforms. “Ultimately it has to go through the legislative process, so whether it’s a committee of two, ultimately it will be a committee of four.”


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