There’s often a lot of fanfare around the signing of a budget package. But not this time. It was a sober event inside the Governor’s office – away from the public, and without the legislative leaders.
“This budget is kind of like the good, the bad and the ugly.”
Schwarzenegger used his line-item veto authority to cut child welfare services, AIDS prevention and programs for the elderly. More kids will lose health insurance, and up to 100 state parks may close.
“Those are ugly cuts, and I am the only one that really is responsible for those cuts, because the legislators left and they didn’t want to make those cuts.”
The Governor says he made the new cuts because the state Assembly rejected a couple of bills that were part of the deal brokered by the Governor and legislative leaders. The Governor says after his cuts, the state has a slim reserve of half-a-billion dollars for emergencies:
“There’s always the unknowns out there, and when we have our fires coming – fire season now is all-year-round so we have to have the money available to fight these fires very aggressively and have a full team ready to go.”
While the Governor signed the budget revision, outside the Capitol, a few dozen protestors railed against it. Steve Hanson is a utility worker for the Sacramento-area Folsom-Cordova school district. He says students will notice the deep cuts next school year:
“I think the kids when they come back, to school are going to see a noticeable change, and it’s going to be to the negative, and they’re going to wonder why can’t we go in the library, why’s our classroom so dirty, and they’re just wondering why it’s not the way it used to be.”
Almost nothing is the way it used to be, given the state’s huge drop in tax revenues. But Democrats are already vowing to fight the Governor’s new line-item vetoes. In a statement, Democratic Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg questioned the legality of the vetoes….and Democratic Assembly Speaker Karen Bass has asked for a legal opinion on them. Bass is particularly upset about the Governor’s additional cuts to what she terms the “safety net programs” – such as Healthy Families – the state’s low-income health care program for kids. The new reduction there means some kids now on the program will be dis-enrolled. Kelly Hardy is with Children Now, a national group that advocates for kids.
“This really puts California in the backwater of children’s health coverage. Other states are moving forward and we’re moving backward.”
The Governor also used his line-item veto authority to further trim state park funding. Ruth Coleman is Director of State Parks. She says roughly 100 parks could close…though they won’t know for sure how many, or which ones until after Labor Day. She says layoffs are likely:
“We will have to be cutting back quit substantially on our seasonal budget fairly soon in the next few weeks, so I think people will start seeing the effects of these cuts in fairly short order.”
Coleman is asking local governments, non-profits and businesses to pitch in to help save some parks. She says the department is also considering raising fees or closing parks in certain seasons. Coleman says they’ve never had to close a state park before. But there are a lot of firsts in this budget....and the state probably hasn’t seen the last of the cuts. The Department of Finance expects a shortfall of seven to eight billion dollars next fiscal year. SOC