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California Budget Deficit

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In a telephone conference call with the California Black Media, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said “California is starting to look a lot like Mississippi,” referring to California placing 47th out of 50 states when it comes to funding per pupil in education. She went on to say the governor is proposing to cut deep into social programs like Cal Grants and reduce services to the poor and elderly which will disproportionately impact the Black and Latino communities.

The sentiment from the Black media was that these groups are already hard hit from this bad economy. Speaker Bass responded that it is her job to seek ways to reduce the impact on all communities and find alternatives in preparing the budget.  Speaker Bass said the Conference Committee of the Senate and Assembly will be meeting to review the budget for alternative ways to balance the budget and its current $21 billion deficit.

One thing about a crisis is that it brings about a change in the way people act and when it involves money, everyone and everything is important.

We have the education community arguing that to reduce funding will turn back the clock on the small gains made in education, even though the Black community has not witnessed many gains. According to some estimates 70,000 employees are subject to be laid off in education with the majority being teachers. Like I said earlier now the California Service Employee Association is advertising their role in educating our children and how devastating the cuts will be to their members. They are important to education because they are the ones who transport our kids, prepare school lunches, clean classrooms, cut school lawns, maintain student records, care for sick students, help kids cross busy streets and answer phones. Without them teachers can’t teach.

We have doctors and nurses providing health care services to the needy, however, it is the Service Employees International Union workers who carry out the tedious tasks of emptying bed pans, changing those who cannot change themselves, preparing food and feeding the elderly, taking them to appointments but more importantly they are the real face of caring.

These two groups will be hit the hardest if the legislature accepts what the governor is proposing. The governor is also proposing to cut all Cal Grants for student’s education.  To borrow a quote from State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O’Connell, “Preparing students for productive futures is a critical mission of our government. It is vital for our state’s long term success that we have an educated, highly skilled workforce that can compete in the global economy.” This is critical for the advancement of the 500,000 Black children in California public schools.  With the proposed cuts it will only exacerbate the high student dropout rate for Blacks at 41% as well as our unemployment rate of 18%. As I stated earlier we are employed in the jobs to be reduced in education and healthcare.  We have the lowest college going rate and with no Cal Grants it will only go lower.

Our seniors have given so much already and now we are cutting the services they need the most at a delicate time in their lives. Most of our elderly live in poor underserved neighborhoods where access to quality service has been reduced during good times.

We as a community must re-engage our collective voice to advocate our concerns and desires to our elected officials. If we want California to return to the golden years then we must look at how we do business.

I read that Speaker Bass and the Senate are putting together some new goals such as: making government more customer friendly; giving us more value for our tax dollars; cutting through budget gridlock; consolidating agencies that provide similar services; making government more transparent. I would like to add that they work to make it easier for small and minority businesses to do business with the state.

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