Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Millions Affected by Governor’s Budget Cuts

Today the Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services held a lengthy hearing to explore the combined human toll of cuts adopted within the current budget and the governor’s proposed cuts for 2010-2011. We learned that 5.4 million Californians have been impacted by cuts to the health and human services budget and another 9.5 million lives are impacted by the governor’s proposals.

Unless we craft a more humane budget, up to 15 million lives – 41 percent of the state’s population – will be affected just by cuts to health and human services.

Last year the Legislature had a gun to its head—California was on the brink of fiscal insolvency. As a result, we had to make tough budgetary choices in order to keep the doors of the state open.

One of these tough choices was to take deep cuts in services to women, children, the elderly and the disabled. But the Legislature strived to avoid making cuts that kill. The governor’s proposals for 2010-2011 show that he does not share this commitment. His cuts will have a body count. Therefore, before we move forward to craft a state budget asking for more sacrifice from Californians, we need to know who is shouldering the burden of last year’s cuts.

As I said in committee, this is the people’s house, this is the people’s budget and the people are getting screwed.

In subcommitee today, we heard testimony about millions of Californians who will suffer as a result of last year’s cuts. Details can be found here. For instance, during this recession, CalWORKS applications have increased by 10%; yet we heard today that the CalWORKS grant has been reduced to the level paid 20 years ago. This huge reduction affects the lives of nearly 1.5 million Californians. Elimination of Medi-Cal optional adult dental benefits means 932,000 Californians will no longer receive any dental care. Suspension of the SSI/SSP COLA affects more than 1.1 million Californians. Reduction to health clinic programs resulted in clinic closures, reduced hours, reduced staff and elimination of some services impacting 1.1 million Californians. Some Californians will feel the effects of more than one of these cuts.

The governor’s proposed reductions for 2010-2011 will increase the misery for Californians in need. For example, unless California receives $6.9 billion in federal funds, an amount widely viewed as unrealistic, the governor proposes to reduce Medi-Cal eligibility to the minimum affecting more than 2.1 million Californians. He also proposes to eliminate CalWORKS, in-home supportive services (IHSS) and Transitional Housing Program-Plus, which will harm more than 2.5 Californians.

While we continue to explore the impacts of the 2010-2011 cuts, we also need to know where will these Californians’ turn? What will they do? Where can they seek help? So far, the administration has turned a blind eye to the impacts of the governor’s proposals. Today the Department of Social Services admitted that it assumed no one being affected by elimination of IHSS services would go into state-subsidized skilled nursing facilities! To borrow a phrase from Congressman Alan Grayson, is the governor’s plan that these folks die and die quickly?

During today’s hearing, the Department of Social Services stated that the governor’s May revise budget proposals will re-examine his current proposals to eliminate services if the federal trigger is not achieved. This is welcome news. By simply proposing wholesale elimination of services, the governor defaults on his responsibility to the people of this state. The Legislature didn’t adopt his proposal to eliminate services last year. And, given the improvements to our state revenues so far this year, it looks like we won’t need to even consider the idea this year.

Today I urged the administration to come back to the Legislature with practical proposals that do not involve the elimination of services. We need to move forward to begin repairing the damage done last year in order to avert certain human disaster. We must protect and restore the services Californians so desperately need.