Key Facts About the Governor’s Proposed Budget, Part 5: Many Californians Still Hurting in the Aftermath of the Recession

This is the latest in a CBP chart series highlighting some of the most important aspects of Governor Brown’s 2013-14 budget proposal and the context for it.

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As pointed out earlier in this chart series, the significant new revenues approved by voters in November have positioned California to turn the corner on years of severe budget shortfalls. But with the state’s fiscal situation improving, it is important that policymakers not lose sight of the fact that millions of Californians continue to suffer in the wake of the Great Recession.

California’s poverty rate is at its highest point in 15 years and has increased by more than one third — from 12.2 percent to 16.9 percent — since the year before the Great Recession began. About one in six Californians were living in poverty in 2011, according to the most recent Census figures. That means that there are more Californians living in poverty than there are residents of the cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco combined.

California’s child poverty rate is even higher than that of the population as a whole, with approximately one out of four children (24.3 percent) living in poverty in 2011. The long-term consequences for children raised in poverty include lower levels of educational attainment and lower earnings as adults. Childhood poverty not only can mean a life of hardship for individual children — a reason for concern in its own right — but also can impose significant costs on society as a whole through these children’s lost potential.

Meanwhile, California’s weak job market poses a serious and persistent challenge. The state’s current jobless rate of 9.8 percent is still nearly double the rate before the Great Recession began. Only recently — in November 2012 — did the jobless rate finally reach single digits after spending 45 consecutive months in double figures. Long-term unemployment remains near a record high, with more than one in three of California’s unemployed reporting that they have been searching for a job for at least one year.

Our state’s budget policy choices should reflect the fact that many Californians are still confronting the harsh aftereffects of the Great Recession. As lawmakers consider the Governor’s budget proposal and work toward a budget agreement in the coming months, priority should be given to strengthening programs and services — such as child care — that help individuals find and keep jobs and also to ensuring a strong social safety net for those struggling to make ends meet. Wise investment of state dollars can help blunt the impact of our state’s economic challenges while also speeding the state’s recovery and laying the groundwork for widely shared prosperity over the long term.

— Phaelen Parker

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