Proposed tax credit for California's poor receives bipartisan support

Proposed tax credit for California's poor receives bipartisan support
Gov. Jerry Brown unveils his revised 2015-16 California budget proposal Thursday at the Capitol in Sacramento. (John G. Mabanglo / EPA)

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal for a state tax credit for California’s poorest working families was praised by both Democratic and Republican legislative leaders Thursday, but that warm bipartisan embrace wasn’t extended to other portions of the governor’s revised state budget.

The budget provision, known as an earned income tax credit, would help more than 825,000 families in California. The size of the credit would be based on a sliding scale, determined by income and the number of children in a family, and no one earning more than $13,870 a year would qualify.

“It’s really good news for Californians, particularly families that are living on the margins where this is going to make a significant difference in their lives,’’ said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). “We know that should we approve this as part of the budget, which I’m optimistic we will … we’re going to see upward of 50,000 families come out of poverty and 50,000 come out of deep-poverty.’’

In the past, Brown has faced criticism from some Democrats -- and his GOP challenger in the 2014 gubernatorial election -- for not doing enough to help those Californians most in need.

Senate leader Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) called the tax credit an “important anti-poverty tool,” but said the state must also invest more in child care and education to support those Californians who have been left out of the state’s economic recovery.

"Child care and higher education are important investments to fortify the future of California's economy. We can and will do more to ensure our budget reflects these priorities," De Leon said in a statement Thursday.

Senate GOP leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) said he believed Republicans would support the tax credit proposed by the Democratic governor, since only those who are working will be eligible.

"Devil's always in the details but we believe that's a better approach to poverty than raising the minimum wage, because when you do that you start suppressing job creation,'' Huff said.

The GOP leader, however, said the governor's revised $169-billion state budget proposal, released Thursday, should have included more funding for transportation, since those projects benefit all Californians. Huff added that the additional $2.2 billion that Brown set aside for drought relief and water projects also was a "good start," but said it's unclear if that will be enough if the four-year drought continues.

Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez of Lake Elsinore, vice-chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, said she was happy to see California's public schools benefit from an influx of additional state revenue triggered by the state's rebounding economy. Still, she said, she wants to ensure that the money is spent wisely.

"Let's do something about it and not just throw money at it. I think that's oftentimes what happens — people think we have this money, we throw that money at it and it solves the problem. It doesn't,'' she said. "We have got to get back to not just putting money into schools but fixing the structural problems that they have."