California's July Budget Blues: ...For A Man May Smile and Smile and Still Be A Villain
By Sheila Kuehl
California Integrated Waste Management Boardmember
It's difficult to simply lay out the bare facts of this latest budget revision, because, unlike other budget negotiations, and other budget solutions, this one takes our state to what the Los Angeles Times calls a "shabbier, less generous and...more dangerous" place. This is a very, very different state than most of us have lived in, because the Governor has finally managed to enact most of right-wing strategist Grover Norquist's playbook right here in California: shrink government down to where you can "drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub," characterize the poor as lazy and deserving of sanctions and cuts, shred the safety net, characterize government workers as greedy and overpaid and slash their salaries, close state parks, undermine public schools and pretend you had no choice but to do it all.
The Budget That Was Signed
The greatest blows were heaped on the poor, the elderly and children in schools. The Governor refused a 9.9% tax on oil companies that extract oil in California (Gov. Palin signed a 25% extraction tax in Alaska), had already slashed the vehicle license fee, and adamantly refused to consider any taxes or fees. What suffered as a result: higher education, parks, battered women, foster children, and every poor person in this state (more and more in this economic downturn), the sick, both uninsured and underinsured, and impoverished seniors. Last month, for the first time, in our state of 38 million, more than 7 million people qualified for MediCal.
The budget package projects $89.5 billion in revenues and transfers to the General Fund, and authorizes total General Fund spending of $84.6 billion, with an estimated reserve of $500 million.
Reduces Proposition 98 appropriations for K-12 education by another $5.3 billion and community colleges by an additional $800 million.
Reduces by $2 billion--to the minimum level required for federal stimulus funding--payments to UC and CSU.
Rejects the Governor's proposal to eliminate the CalGrant program.
Rejects the Governor's proposal to eliminate the Healthy Families Program, but further reduces support by $179 million, mostly gutting it.
Reduces Proposition 36 substance abuse programs by $90 million.
Shifts (steals) $1.7 billion of local redevelopment funds.
Reduces court funding by 10 percent for $169 million of savings. Assumes one-day-per-month court closures.
Reduces CalWORKS (California's welfare-to-work program) by 510 million.
Reduces In Home Support Services by $264 million by eliminating some services for all but the most severely disabled, making the least disabled ineligible for all services, and implementing several antifraud activities, such as requiring providers and recipients (the disabled) to be fingerprinted. (As the LA Times wrote in their August 1st editorial: we can't have those seniors flitting from county to county trying to get more sponge baths).
Reduces funding to counties for Child Welfare Services by $80 million.
Rejects the Governor's proposals to eliminate CalWORKS.
Does not include either the Governor's proposal to close most state parks or the legislative proposal for a vehicle fee to support the state parks system. Reduces General Fund support for state park operations by $8 million, requiring the closure of about 50 parks.
Steals $62 million in "loans" from resources-related special funds (like the tire fees used to clean up tire piles and recycle tires, which brings in millions of dollars a year. Look for the return of tire fires in the state).
Next: The Line-Item Vetoes: Get What You Asked For (Except for Offshore Oil Drilling) and shoot the hostages anyway.
Sheila James Kuehl was appointed to the California Integrated Waste Management Board on December 1, 2008, after having served eight years in the State Senate and six years in the State Assembly. Senator Kuehl served as chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee from 2000-2006. Her website is www.sheilakuehl.org
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