The state is facing a $24 billion budget deficit and the programs on the chopping block help children, moms going to school to get off welfare, and the disabled. It could have a huge ripple effect on matching federal dollars. Cutting the CalWORKs program, for example, would save $1 billion, but would mean losing $4 billion in federal money. So, that's a total cut to poor families of $5 billion.
The proposed cuts the governor has released over the last several days total nearly $15 billion and the ax is falling the hardest on poor.
Thousands from California's disabled community are angry about the budget cuts aimed at the in-home services they depend on. For many like R.J. Field, who has cerebral palsy, nearly $41 million in cuts means he won't get as much care or help for school.
"It's really hard for them to make purchases like large print books or special testing things. I don't understand why I always get targeted," says R.J. Field, a protestor from Riverside.
Inside the capitol, lawmakers are getting an earful about other cuts to social programs. The governor proposes to completely eliminate Healthy Families, terminating medical coverage for nearly a million poor kids. The state saves $250 million, but loses twice that in matching federal funds.
Joshua Stark worries about his 2-year-old if her state health insurance ends.
"We would just be having to watch what she does, take her temperature, and really gamble on whether we should take her in for an emergency or not," says Stark.
Under the proposed cuts, welfare-to-work moms would lose CalWORKs, which helps them pay for everyday living expenses while attending school. California would save $1.3 billion, but lose $4 billion from the feds.
Single mom Mary Canoy says her three sons would suffer if the program ends before she earns her degree.
"I'm not saying it would happen, but if it had happened to where I would be cut off, what would I do to live? Would I have to go back to using drugs, selling drugs? Committing crimes just to take care of my family?" says Canoy.
Critics say the budget cuts are short-sighted because these short-term savings would cost more in the long-run, in terms of public safety and emergency room care.
Most of the state budget is protected by law from cuts. So leaders can only slice certain portions and social services are one of the few line items that is a sitting target.