Senate leader talks poverty, Jerry Brown, while staking out budget turf

By Anthony York | Posted January 30, 2015

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) addressed the Sacramento Press Club this week, to articulate his vision for California’s future.

The speech, in many ways, was a staking out of turf as the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown prepare for another round of budget negotiations. De León pushed Brown to do more to help the poor in California, laying out a legislative plan that the Senate leader said is focused on “opportunity for all Californians to fully participate in out state’s economic resurgence.”

De León’s vision includes incentives to create jobs and increasing funding for state’s social safety net

“As we contemplate the good things we have experienced as a state, we also must be conscious of another, less comfortable fact,” he said. “Too many Californians are simply not a part of this economic growth. “Income inequality is real and there is no place in the country where it is starker than California. Our unemployment and poverty rates are still too high compared to the rest of the nation.”

And, he said, government spending is an important part of reversing that trend. “One thing we’ve learned,” he said, “is that austerity alone won’t build our economy.”

In her write up Friday, AP’s Judy Lin focused on De Leon’s remarks on Brown and his attitude toward 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 during the question and answer period after his speech.

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De León, has who worked closely with billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, made a point of saying the inequality in California extends to environmental justice.

“As California works toward spreading economic opportunity to all Californians, the state must also invest resources in ensuring environmentally safe communities in the state’s less affluent neighborhoods.

“They have been the dumping ground for environmental hazards for decades resulting in unclean water, dirty air, and little-to-no park space,” he said. “This is the type of strategic investment that uses our current resources efficiently and tackles income inequality.

“Not only will this approach clean up some of our most polluted communities, it will create jobs and improve the quality of life in areas that suffer some of the country’s highest unemployment rates.”

De León said he believes the next round of middle class jobs will come from the green economy, and dismissed any suggestion that environmental regulation and economic vitality are contradictory.

De León also put some distance between himself and Brown, saying he supports more funding for higher education. The governor has tangled with leaders from the University of California, who have threatened to raise student tuition unless the state boosts its funding – something Brown said he does not support.

“Whether our California students attend a two-year or four -year school, they must have access to the necessary resources and support to meet their goals,” he said. “More importantly, the state must work to make higher education affordable for all families and recognize that affordability is not just about tuition.”

You can see his entire speech here.


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Anthony York
Anthony York has covered California politics for close to 20 years. Before launching the Grizzly Bear Project in 2015, he covered Gov. Jerry Brown's administration for the Los Angeles Times. He is the former editor of Capitol Weekly, a former Associate Editor of the California Journal and of, where he also served as the Web site's Washington D.C. correspondent. He tweets at @anthonyyork49

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