Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Governor Values Corporations over Children

Last Friday, the governor issued his May Revision of the state budget. If, as the governor says, it reflects his values, then it is clear he is willing to accept uneducated, undernourished, and uncared for children for $2.4 billion in new corporate tax cuts.

In order to close our $19.1 billion deficit, the governor proposes massive cuts. Despite promising to protect education, the governor’s single biggest cut of nearly $3 billion comes from K-12 education. The picture gets much worse, especially for poor kids.

While the state’s unemployment level soars at over 12%, the governor proposes eliminating the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKS) program, subsidized child care, and nutrition programs like the California Food Assistance Program. This will drive families into poverty and make it significantly more difficult to transition back into the workforce during this recession.

Eliminating CalWORKS would mark a significant change for California, which has had a welfare program since 1911. It cuts at the well-being of over 1 million kids in California since 3 out of 4 CalWORKS recipients are children. How much are CalWORKS grants? On average, $503 per month for a family of three. Beyond the enormity of human costs associated with eliminating this program, California would lose $4 billion in federal funds in order to save $1.2 billion. And, California would become the only state not to have some form of welfare to work program.

If we eliminate subsidized child care, the parents of 142,000 children will face the lose-lose choice of leaving their children unattended during the day or leaving their jobs. The latter risks hunger, homelessness, and the loss of healthcare insurance.

Eliminating the California Food Assistance Program will affect the food budgets of over 32,000 people. We are not talking about a lot of money. The average monthly benefit is $112 per person. But nearly 3 million more people risk going hungry under the governor’s budget since he has also proposed cuts to the funds that pay for the administration of food stamps, which are paid for entirely with federal funds.

In one budget, the governor wants to create a future of poverty for millions of Californians while assuring extravagant wealth for a small elite. The governor is right in saying that the budget is a reflection of our values. But Californians don’t value corporate profits over people, especially kids.