Calif. social programs to suffer more cuts

May 13, 2010 6:45:39 PM PDT
Friday could be a devastating day for a lot of Californians. The state programs they depend on could be completely eliminated.

Nearly half a million disabled Californians, like Helen O'Connell, get subsidized home care.

There's a strong likelihood Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will propose the complete elimination of her program when he unveils his revised budget plan tomorrow.

"I'm appalled and mortified because I'll probably end up in a nursing home and I've never been in one before, and I don't want to go," she said.

It's one of the drastic moves Schwarzenegger is anticipated to make, given the $20 billion deficit facing the state, in-home care and health insurance for 900,000 low income children are big ticket items and can save the state a lot of money.

"Usually when the ship is sinking, the first thing the captain does is put the children, women and the infirmed in the lifeboats. Well, when this ship is sinking, this governor throws those folks overboard," Mike Herald from Western Center on Law & Poverty said.

Schwarzenegger and the Legislature, though, may have little choice. They favor cutting the funding to those programs instead of total elimination and have done so in the past.

But the courts have ruled the state must provide those areas with a minimum amount of money.

"The federal judges have said, 'No, you can't go below that threshold. You can get rid of the program, but can't go below that level.' So they're forcing us to eliminate those programs instead of simply cutting back," the governor's press secretary Aaron McLear said.

Taking apart vital programs would cost California federal money. In many instances, for every dollar the state spends, Washington matches it, sometimes up to $9.

"It may look good on paper, but it is the epitome of penny-wise and pound foolish," Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Van Nuys, said.

Even fiscal conservatives who normally push to pare back social programs don't agree with the complete elimination.

"Everybody should be concerned. There's an element in our society of children and the elderly who can't help themselves, and those are the kinds of safety nets we have to preserve," Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Riverside, said.

"I'm frustrated because I feel like he's just taking it out on people that can't defend themselves," O'Connell said.

California and 22 other cash-strapped states are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene by giving them the ability to get their finances in order and allow the cuts.


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