Thursday, August 20, 2009

Times Standard Editorial on CA budget cuts

Is hope dying for the assisted living?

Richard Salzman/For the Times-Standard

The Times Standard got it right with the headline, “Adding insult to injury for care providers,” on its Aug. 13th front-page story about the protest by in-home support service care providers. These assisted-living workers have been severely affected by our state's draconian budget cuts, and now the state wants them fingerprinted at their own expense!

What was not clear from the article was our representative's position on these issues, so I checked online and found that Assemblymember Wes Chesbro voted no on ABX4 19-IHSS reform (this is the bill that requires fingerprints and background checks), and he voted no on ABX4 8 -- cuts to SSI & CalWorks. I'm glad that Chesbro took the moral high ground on these two votes.

But I'm not happy about the overall budget “compromise,” which allowed for zero revenue increases despite several good proposals, such as an alcohol tax which would have brought in $1.4 billion a year; a 9.9 percent charge to the value of oil extracted from wells in California, which would have raised over $1 billion a year; and a tax on incomes of over $250,000 a year, which could net $4 billion in annual revenues.

Overall, the situation is dire for those in our society who are the most vulnerable. And when it comes to assisted living, the alternative will only cost us more, both in the short run and the long run. If these people cannot live at home, they will either become homeless or be institutionalized -- outcomes which put an even greater burden on society while providing no benefit whatsoever, not even financial.

The governor, through a constitutionally questionable use of his line item veto, cut Healthy Families by $50 million, on top of the $53 million already cut by the Legislature. According to an analysis by the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, this will mean that nearly 670,000 more children could be dropped from Healthy Families by next June -- despite the 22,000 children already on the waiting list to get onto Healthy Families!

These so-called “blue pencil” vetoes by the governor have included:

* slashing the remaining state support for county health clinics, such as Humboldt's Open Door Clinics, by $25 million;

* cutting the last of the state's support for Domestic Violence Shelters, such as the Humboldt Women's Shelter, by $16.4 million.

* chopping the last of the state's support for the adolescent Family Life Program by $9 million.

* slicing $52 million from the state Office of AIDS, which will result in severely decreased service in Humboldt County for HIV/AID
prevention and treatment;

* eliminating funding for two programs for the aging, which will affect Eureka's new Alzheimer's Center and the Senior Brown Bag Program.

In addition, there was a $124 million reduction for child welfare services, which will come on top of a previous cut of 10 percent. The likely result will be layoffs of hundreds of social workers and caseloads for those remaining that are unmanageable. All this will be added to a whopping $1 billion dollar cut to Medi-Cal.

The budget also amputated $375 million from CalWorks services, and most of these cuts will not begin until July of 2011. So expect the bad times to last for some time to come.

When they were created, I don't remember anyone in government saying that these “safety nets” would just exist in good times -- but that if finances got rough, which would be exactly when they are needed the most, we would cut off recipients.

Assemblymember Chesbro seems to share my outrage about these cuts, when earlier this month he said:
”The measure of any society is how well it takes care of its most vulnerable citizens. It is shameful to balance the state's budget on the backs of children, the aged, the poor and the disabled. Yet this is what the governor seems intent on doing by using the line-item veto to cut nearly $500 million from programs that provide health care for children from impoverished families and services for the elderly, victims of domestic violence, those suffering from AIDS and abused and neglected youths.”

”I don't believe the governor has the legal right to make these cuts. The California Constitution doesn't allow the governor to line-item veto bills that reduce the budget. He can only veto individual items from appropriations bills. The governor is acting like a dictator by assuming power that isn't legally his.”

All of us here on the North Coast should contact the governor ( and echo Chesbro's remarks. We should also come to grips with the reality that any real fix is going to require some reform to Prop. 13.