Mervyn Dymally opposes balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and children.
In his recent 2008 State of the State Address, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger acknowledged that we are facing tough times and proposed a constitutional amendment to address the state’s $14.5 billion deficit. His initiative would force automatic cuts in health care programs for the poor, take billions of dollars from public schools, close 48 state parks or beaches, release thousands of non-violent inmates early, and allow for austere measures in nearly every other area of the state’s budget.
“The governor and republicans cannot continue to balance the budget on the backs of the poor and children,” Assemblymember Mervyn M. Dymally said. “Time has now come for us to face the fact that we must explore the path of different revenue enhancements if we are to continue our essential services. California ranks at the bottom of the scale in every educational category and we are moving towards a dysfunctional state at the rate we are traveling.”
Citing necessary reductions to close the deficit, the largest reduction would affect K-12 education, which, as a result of Proposition 98, is guaranteed about 40 percent of general fund tax money. The governor’s proposed spending reduction of $4.4 billion targets special education classes, child nutrition programs, class-size reduction efforts, transportation and charter schools.
If the governor’s proposal is adopted, schools would receive 9 percent less next year than they would otherwise be entitled to under the constitutional guarantee for education funding, which he has proposed to suspend.
Schwarzenegger has proposed making $4.7 billion in reductions in health and human services spending. His plan would cut $1 billion in payments for doctors and hospitals that take care of Medi-Cal and Healthy Families patients while they would also lose coverage for dental work and optometry, while Healthy Families participants—a program designed for low-income parents who earn above the poverty level—would have to pay more in premiums and co-payments. Other cuts include $11 million from the state’s AIDS programs.
Another significant area of steep spending reductions is in the area of the state’s welfare program - CalWORKS. He has proposed a $462 million spending reduction by dropping families, including children, from state aid if parents do not find employment wihin certain time frames. He would also reduce payment rates for foster families from $715 to $644 a child per month. In addition, his plan calls for lowering cost of living increases for SSI-SSP program participants and for in-home support service aides.
To save $1.1 billion by June, 2010, the governor’s plan calls for the early release of 22,259 non-violent and non-sex offenders and new policies that may allow 6,249 parole violators to avoid additional incarceration. Also related to his puclic safety initiative, the governor proposes to layoff 6,054 correctional employees and cut the corrections’ department grant funding to local agancies.
In addition to temporarily closing 48 of the state’s 280 parks to save $13.3 million, the governor also has required every state department to slash 10 percent from its original budget.
Finally, in addition to the spending cuts, Schwarzenegger proposes that the state borrow $3.3 billion from previously approved bond money.