After a two-day policy retreat by Democratic lawmakers, California Senate leader Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) said Thursday that his caucus’ legislative priorities this year would be economic growth, the environment, education and income equality.
“Too many Californians are not part of this economic growth,” De Leon said at a lunch hosted by the Sacramento Press Club, where he called for making higher education and career technical training more affordable and accessible.
Income inequality is particularily stark in California, he said, adding, “Education is the greatest equalizer we have.” He also said the Senate would pursue efforts to increase the number of jobs associated with green technology.
De Leon said Democratic lawmakers would try to restore the social services safety net, including an expansion of child care for working mothers, by offering changes in this year’s budget but conceeded, “The resources are finite. There’s not a lot ot play with.”
Asked about criticism by some social service advocates that Gov. Jerry Brown doesn’t understand how dire the situation is for the state’s poor, De Leon said, “Obviously the critique is derived from his budget. I think that perhaps he just needs some more education so that he can better understand what’s happening in California.”
De Leon described Brown as a “great leader” and said the two have a “constructive relationship,” but added, “I can’t say to you that we’re close. I don’t know who is close to the governor, other than his wife.”
De Leon said he and Brown had some time to talk during a recent trip they took to Mexico City, and the subjects went beyond policy issues to include Brown’s fascination with philosophers Socrates and Thomas Hobbes, as well as the Peloponnesian War.
Having taken some heat for shutting down a Senate office of accountability, De Leon said it was up to all senators and staff to hold state government accountable and he has asked them this year to look at how existing state programs are working.