Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Governor’s State Budget Address to the Legislature

The governor spoke to a special joint session of the Legislature today. I encourage you to read it. A copy is available at http://www.gov.ca.gov/press-release/12412/.

Overall, I could not help notice how he and I differ about what is at stake in the decisions that lay ahead.

The governor said:
“People come up to me all the time, pleading, ‘Governor, please don’t cut my program.’ They tell me how the cuts will affect them and their loved ones. I see the pain in their eyes and hear the fear in their voice. It’s an awful feeling. But we have no choice. Our wallet is empty. Our bank is closed. Our credit is dried up.”

When the governor went on to say that “we cannot make this budget just about cuts,” I was hoping to hear him talk about maintaining a minimum standard for the people of California. But he didn’t.

As the Chair of the Conference Committee, I have presided over numerous day-long hearings where the public has commented on the governor’s budget proposals – including the elimination of safety net programs at a time when the need is greatest. Consequently, I have developed a different perspective on the weight of the budget decisions we face.

One example of public testimony was especially poignant. A brave young woman – just 24 years old – came to tell the Conference Committee last Wednesday that she credits her survival to the state program that provides the expensive antiviral drugs she takes daily. With that HIV-prevention program facing the ax, she came to plead for life. Nearly in tears, she said, "If these cuts take place, you're not just cutting money from the program -- you're cutting my life. I choose to live. Please don't make me die. My choice is life."

Each budget cut has an impact, a human cost. And, under the governor’s budget proposals, many of these costs are paid by women, children, seniors, and the disabled.