Booker unveils plan to fight child poverty

Mayor Cory A. Booker claps after taking the formal oath of office in Newark, N.J., Saturday, July 1, 2006. Booker, 37, won a landslide victory in May and saw his supporters later win all nine seats on the Municipal Council. (AP Photo/Tim Larsen)

UPDATED with new comments below.

WASHINGTON – Newark Mayor Cory Booker will call Monday for raising the minimum wage, providing free pre-school for every needy child starting at age three and creating federally-funded trust funds to help pay for college for low-income children, all as part of his first major policy roll-out as he runs for U.S. Senate.

Booker’s plan, scheduled to be unveiled in Edgewater, N.J., focuses on combating child poverty.

“Because of child poverty, our nation loses out on the talent and ingenuity of millions of people,” Booker said in a news release issued in advance of his press conference. “Precious tax dollars – resources that will be stretched thinner with every passing Baby Boom year – are misdirected: earmarked for prisons and preventable medical interventions, instead of our schools and universities, instead of countless priorities that would strengthen America’s competitive position.”

Booker cited federal statistics showing that child poverty is growing faster in suburbs than in cities.

His proposals include several steps long supported by Democrats and liberal groups, though opposed by those who worry about the added costs to taxpayers and the efficiency of such programs, which would cost tens of billions of dollars.

UPDATE: Republican Steve Lonegan, who is running for the GOP nomination for Senate, blasted Booker's plans as "more extreme than any of the left-wing ideas the Obama administration has proposed."

"It's proof that not only will Cory Booker be a rubber stamp for President Obama in the U.S. Senate, he will go even further – increasing the deficit further, destroying more jobs, and making even more Americans dependent on the federal government," Lonegan said in a statement. "It is these kinds of welfare programs that ruined great cities like Newark, and now Cory Booker wants to force these same failed ideas on the rest of the nation. As a U.S. senator, I will work to undo these policies and fight for less government, more personal responsibility, and greater individual liberty."

Booker's campaign provided cost estimates for parts of his proposal, though they argued that many -- and particularly the preschool plan -- would have long-term benefits that far outweigh the initial expense.

The plan includes:
- Raising the minimum wage to $10.10, from $7.25
. Business groups have opposed such a move, though Booker's campaign said it would boost the economy by giving families more spending power. The campaign cited one liberal study that said such a move would increase GDP by $32.6 billion.

- Providing universal preschool for all poor children starting at age three, by 2025. The plan would cost $12 billion per year, according to Booker's campaign.

- Expanding married couples’ eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Cost estimate: $3 billion per  year.

- Trust funds, starting with deposits of $400 per year, per child, for use in college or post high-school career training. The fund would be for families that qualify for EITC. The cut off for EITC eligibility last tax year was $47,162 of adjusted gross income for a married couple with two children. Booker's campaign said this program would cost less than $10 billion per year.

- Increasing by $2 billion federal funding for "nurse family partnerships," which provide health and child development advice to first-time mothers

- Approving reductions in principal for mortgages held by lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

- Preserve funding for SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, which is subject to cuts in the most recent Farm Bill.

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