Democrats See $2 Billion Divide Over State Budget Cuts
Republicans Say They’re Left Out of Discussions
With a balanced budget due by Friday, Governor Brown is taking the hard fiscal realities affecting the State’s most vulnerable residents to the forefront. The proposed cuts land squarely on all 58 California counties, and Humboldt County’s Department of Health and Human Services under Phil Crandall is no exception– and likely to see the brunt of the measures.
Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and Democratic lawmakers have been meeting privately to negotiate disagreements over about $2 billion in cuts proposed in Brown’s revised fiscal year 2012-2013 budget plan, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Lawmakers face a June 15 constitutional deadline to pass a balanced budget. The state currently faces a $15.7 billion budget deficit.
Background on Budget
Brown’s $91.4 billion revised budget plan calls for cutting:
• $1.2 billion from Medi-Cal — California’s Medicaid program — by merging services for beneficiaries eligible for both Medi-Cal and Medicare and reducing payments to hospitals and nursing homes;
• $946.2 million from CalWORKs — the state’s welfare-to-work program — by limiting the amount of time most adults could be in the program from four years to two years;
• $225 million from In-Home Supportive Services — which provides services for the elderly and people who are blind or have disabilities — by eliminating domestic assistance for beneficiaries in shared living environments and reducing worker payments by 7%; and
• $64 million from Healthy Families, California’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, by moving children out of the program.
Where Brown, Democratic Legislators Disagree
Democratic legislators mostly agree with Brown’s budget plan, but they argue that about $2 billion in proposed cuts would hurt California’s most vulnerable residents.
The lawmakers said they oppose Brown’s proposed cuts to:
• Cal Grants, which provides financial aid to college students;
• IHSS; and
• Child care assistance for low-income families.
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said he and Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) want to reach “middle ground” with Brown. The lawmakers have not indicated where they would find funding to avoid the proposed cuts.
Welfare Recipients Pushed to Work
The governor is proposing a major overhaul of the state’s welfare-to-work program with the strategy of slashing people’s benefits to motivate them to get jobs faster. The move, if approved by the state Legislature as part of the 2012-13 budget package, would save $880 million, according to the Associated Press.
California is the national leader in welfare recipients. About 3.8 percent of state residents were on welfare in 2010, the highest percentage in the country. In fact, California houses about a third of the nation’s welfare recipients, while only housing one-eighth of the national population. Most of the recipients are children. The rest are mostly single mothers who must work or participate in job training and related activities to receive cash assistance.
For the next fiscal year, the governor is proposing sweeping cutbacks, including a 27 percent cut in cash assistance to children with ineligible parents and further slashing the time limit for full benefits from four years to two years.
Brown’s reforms aim to get parents off welfare before they become entrenched. The plan calls for parents to be hired or employable within two years of entering the program by providing job training and counseling, mental health, substance abuse and domestic violence support services, and child care. They must either work or participate in those activities to get the cash aid.
Republicans say it’s about time California pushed harder to get people to self-sufficiency, and say more is needed in terms of regulatory reform and job stimulation. Halving the time limit is a good move, but continuing to give parents cash for children with no strings attached defeats the purpose of welfare-to-work, they argue.
GOP Criticizes Democrats Over Meetings
Republican lawmakers have criticized Democrats for not holding traditional committee hearings so that both parties can weigh in on the budget before it is presented to the full Legislature.
Since voters passed a proposition allowing lawmakers to pass the budget using a simple majority vote in 2010, Republicans have been left out of budget talks.
Field Poll Finds Low Voter Confidence in Lawmakers
A Field Poll released Friday found that 65% of registered California voters say they have little confidence in the Legislature’s ability to resolve the state’s budget deficit, while 43% say they have little confidence in Brown’s ability to address the budget.
In addition, the poll found that by a 41% to 26% margin, voters would side with Brown over the Legislature if there was a dispute about the budget.
The poll also found that:
• 9% of voters said they had a great deal of confidence in Brown’s ability to resolve the budget deficit; and
• 3% of voters said they had a great deal of confidence in the Legislature’s ability to resolve the budget deficit.
The Ugly Big Picture
It’s not looking very pretty. With San Jose and San Diego’s voter-approved pension reforms and the recent Scott Walker/Wisconsin union labor setbacks blowing in the wind, everyone is tightening their money belts with leaner and meaner fiscal reforms wherever they can be found. It’s the new normal.
When then-Attorney General Jerry Brown made his campaign whistle stop at the Samoa Cookhouse saying the party was over and painful choices need to be made for our previous excesses and fiscal arrears, he wasn’t kidding. Those choices are here and now.
Facing a $16 billion deficit, California is following suit with painful measures in hand to balance the books. The Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services will do more with less for those unfortunates who happen to be down on their luck and out of work under the Governor’s proposal.
Good luck, Phil. We wish you the best.