New legislation makes alleviating child poverty a state priority

By Gary Walker

A hard-fought bill by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D- Marina del Rey) to make addressing child poverty an integral component of state policy and budget decisions has finally become law, albeit without all the provisions she had hoped for.

Assembly Bill 1520, which faced a six-month uphill battle to survive the Legislature, won state Senate approval on Sept. 15 and was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 2.

Burke’s legislation creates the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Taskforce, which will submit reports to the Legislature and the governor’s office recommending future strategies “to achieve the reduction of deep poverty among children and reduce the overall poverty rate in the state.”

Before the Senate approved AB 1520, the Assembly Appropriations Committee removed two significant clauses of the bill: projecting child poverty rates into
the 2039-40 fiscal year, and establishing benchmarks towards reducing child poverty by 50%. Those provisions would have been likely to impact allocation of fiscal resources and complicate future state budget negotiations.

“This is like a first stab at the apple. I think that we wanted to work to make sure that we had a functional bill that could be useful to everyone,” said Burke, the daughter of longtime L.A.-area political giant Yvonne Braithwaite Burke.

There are more than two million children who live under or at the poverty level in California, according to child advocacy organization the Children’s Defense Fund – California.

A study area that included Westchester, Playa del Rey, Marina del Rey, Culver City, Del Rey and portions of Venice had an overall child poverty rate of roughly 13%, with the poverty line for a family of four drawn at an annual income of about $31,000, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

“It’s disheartening to be the fifth-largest economy in the world and have two million children in poverty, and to have the opportunity to do something about it and push the envelope on what’s possible is one reason why I came [to Sacramento],” said Burke, whose office touts the legislation as “landmark” because it will provide a framework for alleviating child poverty statewide.

“This is the kind of work that you get up in the morning to do.”