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Budget Watch: How boldly will policymakers act?

Building a More Equitable California

At the Budget Center, we believe that budgets are about values. And as policymakers look to finalize the 2021-22 state budget, it’s important to remember that economic struggles remain for the vast majority of Californians.

The good news? With this state budget, policymakers have an opportunity to be bold and espouse values that truly reach every Californian. Here are a few items that we’re watching for policymakers to act on:

Maintain Increased Paid Family Leave Benefits. The majority of California workers contribute to the state’s paid family leave and disability insurance programs to use as family and sick care needs arise. Yet, California’s paid family leave program is out of reach for many workers because the payment rates are simply too low. Unless policymakers act, the payment rates will revert to just 55% of earnings at the end of the year. Maintaining increased payment rates could help make paid family leave more accessible and reduce the persistent employment and pay inequities between women and men due to family care responsibilities.

Invest in Child Care Infrastructure.
California’s economy cannot recover from the shocks of the pandemic until children have a safe place to learn and grow, working parents can return to their jobs, and providers are supported in sustaining the critical child care industry. Policymakers can ensure child care providers are paid fairly by reforming reimbursement rates and committing to ongoing investments to help families access affordable child care — essential for California families and the economy now and beyond the pandemic.

Provide Nutrition Support for Undocumented Immigrants. Californians who are undocumented immigrants, or who have undocumented family members, are blocked from full access to the supports — including nutrition supports — that other Californians can turn to when struggling to meet basic needs. State policymakers can expand access to food assistance to Californians regardless of immigration status through the California Food Assistance Program. This alone could help reduce hunger for an estimated 1 million Californians.

Want to learn more about building an equitable California?
State policymakers have an opportunity to seize the moment and wisely use the state’s revenue to make bold ongoing investments that create a more equitable California where all people can thrive regardless of age, race, or zip code. Check out our latest Medium piece — 10 Ways to Make Governor Newsom’s Proposed Budget More Equitable — for more of our team’s ideas to make the state budget proposal more equitable. What would you add to the list? Let us know on Twitter!

This article was released by the California Budget and Policy Center.