Domestic violence victims plead for money

October 5, 2009 7:49:54 PM PDT
Victims of domestic violence, along with those who work every day to help them, converged on the Capitol in Sacramento, looking for money. They say the governor slashed through their critical safety net to balance the budget.

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Victims and shelter workers kicked off Domestic Violence Awareness Month by urging leaders to restore state funding to their programs.

Because lawmakers sent Governor Schwarzenegger a budget this past summer that was unbalanced by nearly a billion dollars, he used his veto authority to slash numerous services, including $16 million from domestic violence shelters across California, which is practically all of their funding.

"With just a stroke of his pen, the governor reversed 15 years worth of work and progress for women escaping violent environments," said State Senator Ellen Corbett D-San Leandro.

Former Mrs. California Tracie Stafford remembers what it was like 15 years ago when services were scarce. She doesn't want today's women to experience that.

"My ex punched me in the mouth in front of 30-40 people. Not one person stopped and I was eight months pregnant. That was a signal to me that this was normal, acceptable behavior," she said.

Without state funding, one Sacramento shelter had to cut its hotline staff to one, which means callers have to wait longer for help.

Six shelters in California have already had to shut down, leaving little options for abused women.

"In fact, a number of them have probably returned to their abusive relationship," said shelter director Niko Johnson.

But the administration says with tax receipts way down in this recession, every corner of state government is going to have to share in the pain.

"If we can find ways in which to restore this program, we absolutely would love to do so. But unfortunately, the Governor can only spend the money we have and at this point, it was a difficult decision he had to make," said the governor's press secretary Aaron McLear

If the Governor calls a special session, Democrats are ready with a proposal to loan $16 million from a fund, that's supposed to help the development of alternative energy vehicles. If the special session doesn't happen, the proposal will have to wait until January.

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