Sacramento Bee Op-ed: Child Care Looms As Big Spending Issue in California

May 18, 2015

By Dan Walters

The state Democratic Party’s weekend convention in Anaheim began just a day after Gov. Jerry Brown released his revised 2015-16 state budget.

One might expect a Democratic governor to use the occasion to trumpet an expanding economy, a multibillion-dollar cornucopia of new revenues and his plan to spend them. But Brown made only a token appearance, then vamoosed.

Brown’s reluctance to take the spotlight may have reflected what happened after he left.

The convention was full of explicit demands from Democratic legislators and constituent groups for additional spending and implicit criticism of Brown for being too stingy.

The loudest demand is expanding early childhood services, particularly subsidized child care for the working poor. It might be said that Democrats are drawing a line in the sandbox on the issue and may make it the stickiest issue in final budget negotiations.

Brown has clearly been reluctant to expand child care and preschool, which cost $1 billion-plus in state funds now and serve about 350,000 children.

He’s cited other efforts for the poor, particularly a new – albeit tightly restricted and relatively inexpensive – earned income tax credit, but shuns costly new entitlements.

The Legislature’s increasingly influential women’s caucus makes expansion of child care a particularly high priority, saying it not only helps poor women become self-sufficient but also improves poor children's chances of educational success.

Read more