Gov. Jerry Brown

Governor Jerry Brown has faced criticism he’s not doing enough for California’s poor. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Rina Palta
June 04, 05:47 PM

As legislative deadlines near, a handfuls of bills aimed at aiding the poor are advancing through the state legislature this week.

Among them, a bill that would raise the minimum wage in California to $13 an hour by 2017, a bill that would widen welfare eligibility to parents who have children while receiving benefits, and a bill providing health care benefits to undocumented immigrants.

There’s also child care subsidies, low-income tax credits, and AB 1335, a bill that would add a $75 fee to some real estate transactions and use the funds to build affordable housing.

“Poverty is a centerpiece of what the legislature sees as their responsibility to take on,” said Peter Woiwode of the California Partnership, a group that advocates for low-income Californians. “There’s more activity this year, both more ideas of what needs to happen as well as more momentum.”

Woiwode and other activists have staged dozens of demonstrations at the Capitol in the past few months, urging lawmakers to revoke the major cuts to social services that happened during the Recession.

“There is a pent up demand in various constituencies to fix a lot of congenital problems in health care, in social security, in SDI,” said Barbara O’Connor, professor of communications at California State University, Sacramento and a longtime political analyst.

With California finally on stable economic ground, everyone wants to fund programs they care about, she said.

“There are a lot of people around the state, not just Democrats, who say this is a long-standing issue, we have the excess capital now to deal with it,” she said.

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