The community needs to be aware of some recent actions by Governor Schwarzenegger that are both illegal and that disproportionately impact African American communities in California.
In July, the legislature sent bills to the governor to close the state’s $24 billion budget deficit. They included cuts that were painful and affected a great many vital services we care about deeply. We tried to get new revenues to help prevent some of those cuts, but Republican legislators stubbornly refused to vote for any new taxes – and we needed their votes for the two-thirds vote required for new taxes. We tried new fees to help prevent some of those cuts, but Governor Schwarzenegger stubbornly threatened to veto any fees we could pass by majority vote.
Â We sent the governor a budget that solved the entire deficit – but didn’t have a rainy day fund. This was a reasonable step given it was pouring already and the State Controller and the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office both said a big reserve wasn’t an immediate priority for the state’s recovery.
Then the governor got involved and things got worse.
In order to build a $500 million reserve–or at least that’s what he claims–Governor Schwarzenegger handpicked and unilaterally made further cuts. These cuts will have a disproportionate impact on African Americans – and many of them won’t withstand legal scrutiny if affected Californians take steps.
The illegality of Governor Schwarzenegger’s actions comes from the fact that he wasn’t signing a budget – we already passed a budget in February. The governor was signing a budget revision which meant he couldn’t legally cut deeper than the cuts we had sent to him-but he didn’t care and made the cuts anyway.
Â Governor Schwarzenegger’s shameful cuts include $12 million to the Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Program, which virtually eliminates the Black Infant Health Program, at a time when African Americans have an infant mortality rate up to three times as high as other groups. Governor Schwarzenegger
took $80 million more from foster care, at the same time his cuts to CalWorks and Children’s services threaten to dump more kids into the foster care system. And these are our kids–African-American children, who make up less than 12 percent of the nation’s population, represent 42 percent of the children in foster care in this country. Governor Schwarzenegger’s further $52 million cuts to AIDS programs will end the state’s therapeutic monitoring program which ensures that AIDS patients are taking the right drugs and will significantly reduce the state’s HIV prevention efforts, leading to higher HIV rates. According to the latest numbers from the California Department of Public Health, African Americans already make up approximately seven percent of California’s total population, yet represent 19.1 percent of HIV cases and 17.9 percent of cumulative AIDS cases in the state. Governor Schwarnegger took $16 million away from domestic violence programs…which likely means shelters in our communities will close.
There is enough damage for the community to brace for from the recession and the unfortunate cuts that already had to be made. Governor Schwarzenegger’s latest actions really add insult to injury and they have to be stopped. Republicans won’t override their action hero, especially when he makes cuts to social services. The legislative leaders can’t sue the governor to stop the cuts. But impacted Californians can, and community organizations around the state need to consider that strongly.
For his part, the governor needs to be reasonable and reconsider and work with the legislature on other options. If the governor wants a big budget reserve right this second then the governor needs to join in finding responsible alternatives to the cuts he made in order to have that reserve. And he needs to get his fellow Republicans to turn off talk radio and actually support those responsible alternatives.