Special needs groups rallied not to cut their funding

March 16, 2011 7:18:11 PM PDT
In Sacramento, painful decisions are on the table that will affect people all over the state -- some of the most vulnerable Californians. Special needs groups could see funding for their programs slashed.

The package contains 20 bills, so lawmakers will be at this for quite a while. The Assembly has already approved more than $1 billion worth of cuts to CalWORKs -- the welfare to work program -- and to In-Home Support Services to the elderly and disabled, but there are several more bills to go.

Dozens of developmentally disabled adults and their caregivers staged a rally just before the budget vote, hoping to save their programs. Adult health daycare is slated for deep cuts and many will see fewer hours for In-Home Support Services, known as IHSS.

Heidi Spaulding is crossing her fingers. When asked if she was afraid of the budget vote, she said, "Yes, very afraid." Spaulding's caregiver, Angie Lee, said, "She'll be losing her IHSS. She'll be losing her day program. She's basically losing her life."

The Legislature began debating a package of 20 bills, even though negotiations on the budget are still on-going. The proposal to cut $12.5 billion from social programs will likely be one of the first decided.

"We're not happy about it. In fact, a lot of the cuts sicken me. I can't imagine making them at any other time, but it is a $25 billion deficit. These are serious times," said St. Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Senate President.

While a new, voter-approved law says state budgets can now be passed on a simple majority, Democrats want a two-thirds vote so that the spending cuts can be enacted right away. Though Republicans have been pushing for smaller government, they're not sure about the proposed cuts.

"These are the Democrats' cuts. They're not our cuts. In fact, we would go first at things like pension reform," said St. Senator Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark.

The controversial proposal to put the tax extensions on a June special election ballot will probably be voted on last because the Republican votes aren't there either.

A new Field Poll shows that 61percent of registered voters surveyed said they want a special election, while 36 percent preferred the Legislature hammer out solutions without a special election. And if a special election were held today, continuing the expiring sales and income taxes, as well as the vehicle license fee would be approved.

Gov. Jerry Brown is working the hallways himself, trying to roundup more votes for the other parts of his budget plan. He's talking to members of both parties, arm-twisting.

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