Roberti Offer: More Child-Care Funds, Fast Workfare Vote

Times Staff Writer

Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti said Thursday night that he would clear the way for passage of controversial workfare legislation pushed by Gov. George Deukmejian if the governor agrees to back a major child-care program for working parents.

Shortly afterward, Assembly Republican Leader Pat Nolan of Glendale said he was “optimistic” the child-care compromise would pave the way for final approval of the workfare proposal, which would require some welfare parents to work.

Senate Republican Leader James W. Nielsen of Woodland said he also supports the proposal.

Deukmejian, who has made workfare one of his top priorities, had not agreed to the child-care plan but was reported conferring late into the night with Republican leaders.

After an earlier negotiating session with Deukmejian, Roberti (D-Los Angeles) outlined a plan to allocate $36 million for the development of child-care centers and spend up to $142 million annually for child-care subsidies within three years.


“The governor is a cautious politician, and he is checking with all the interested parties,” Roberti said.

Battle for Spending

Roberti has held up the workfare plan in the Senate while he has fought for spending on “latchkey children,” the children of working parents who have no one to care for them after school.

The workfare program without adequate child-care spending, he said, would create more latchkey children and would cause working parents to compete with welfare mothers for scarce space in child-care centers.

The bipartisan workfare bill, approved by the Assembly last month, would require able-bodied welfare recipients to work, get job training or go to school.

About $63 million--far less than the $142 million sought by Roberti--was earmarked in the bill to reimburse welfare parents for their child-care costs.

Last year, the governor vetoed a Roberti bill that would have paid for the care of latchkey children.

“The governor is a harsh bargainer,” Roberti said. “He doesn’t bestow generously. He’s got to be squeezed.”

Roberti said a key part of the compromise is to include the children of working parents in state-funded child-care centers.

“It’s very important that it not be stigmatized as a welfare program,” Roberti said. “The department is committed to quality child care and not warehousing.”

In addition, he said, such child-care centers must be operated by the Department of Education, not the Social Services Department, which oversees county welfare programs.

Roberti said that if the governor agrees to the child-care spending, he will permit waiver of Senate procedures so that the Health and Human Services Committee can hear the bill today, the final day of this year’s legislative session.