Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
May 30, 2015

  • Jerry Brown wants California to give working poor ‘earned income tax credit’
  • Governor insists it’s not ‘entitlement’
  • It’s likely to become one, however

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed an “earned income tax credit” for California’s working poor.

When reporters asked for details, Brown termed it “reasonable” and quickly added, “This is not an entitlement. This is a commitment each year.”

Working poor families could claim the “refundable credit” only when a governor and legislators appropriate money to administer it, presumably when there’s enough money in the state treasury to pay for it.

It’s just semantic dodgeball.

Brown has often warned about loading the budget with new spending that could lead to deficits when revenues dip, or as he puts it, “too many goods become a bad.” And he doesn’t want to be seen as spawning a new entitlement, i.e. something that beneficiaries see as an inalienable right, such as welfare, unemployment insurance, or medical care.

Brown, however, knows that once EITC checks start flowing each year into the mailboxes of millions of Californians, it will be virtually impossible, politically, to turn off the spigot.

More than likely, therefore, the EITC will evolve into an “entitlement” that will expand to ever-more recipients. That’s been the history of such benefits, even those deemed to be temporary or non-entitlements when first implemented.

Entitlements are by no means confined to benefits for the poor. Corporate tax subsidies, such as the one Brown has embraced for the movie industry, are another. And even cops want them.

Three years ago, as the state struggled to emerge from recession, Brown proposed three years of state aid for city police departments to, he said, cushion budget reductions they were experiencing.

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