$1 Billion in mid-year cuts coming to education, disabled

December 14, 2011 2:30:07 AM PST
For public schools across California, the good news is that the bad news isn't worse. Automatic budgets cuts are going to take a small bite out of k-through 12, but a much bigger chunk out of higher education, and close behind are social programs for the poor and needy.

Almost everyone knew the state budget Gov. Jerry Brown signed in June relied on tax revenues that were way too optimistic. The bad news is more cuts are to come; the good news is they're not as deep as originally feared.

School districts throughout California are breathing a sigh of relief. Enough tax revenue came in to avoid much of the $1.5 billion cut to education that could have meant seven fewer days of school.

However, the mid-year trigger cuts will happen at a smaller scale, they automatically take effect next month as part of the state budget Brown authorized in June. Among the cuts, school bus service is eliminated, saving the state $248 million. The Cal State and UC systems are losing a total of $200 million more. Services for the disabled are being slashed $100 million. And tuition for community college students will go up $10 a unit this summer, that's on top of a similar hike this fall, to absorb $30 million in cuts.

"California has very sound finances. We're on the road to recovery, and the trigger cuts which are pulled today are a part of that process of fiscal discipline," said Brown.

Republican budget leaders say the trigger cuts were necessary and show the temporary tax hikes did not need to be extended.

"We've proven yet again and again that those tax increases were not needed to balance the budget," said Assm. Jim Nielsen, R-Assm. Budget Vice-Chairman.

But critics say the price of cuts over more taxes is too high, that the elimination of bus service unfairly hits poor urban and rural kids.

"In many of those communities, they have no other choice; the parents cannot afford another car to take the kids to school," said Steve Henderson, from the California School Employees Association.

Trigger cuts also mean another 7,500 fewer slots in subsidized childcare. Oakland mother Clarissa Doutherd warns a similar cut hurt her last summer.

"Because my son is unable to attend pre-school and there are no other options for us, I have been unable to work and was forced to resign," said Doutherd. "More families are going to be in my position."

The mid-year cuts total $1 billion. The governor used this opportunity to tout his plan to tax the rich and raise the sales tax by half-percent to avoid deeper cuts. Voters will get a say next November.


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