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Gov. Brown's Budget Devastates Social Safety Net

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By BVN Staff –

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget cuts $12.5 billion in spending. Under what he calls a “no more gimmicks” plan California’s social safety net takes a big hit; $1.7 billion from Medi-Cal spending, the state’s version of the Medicaid program for the poor; $1.5 billion from CalWorks, welfare-to- work program.

“These cuts will be painful, requiring sacrifice from every sector of the state, but we have no choice,” Brown said in the statement. He also asked the voters to allow some temporary tax increases to continue five more years to help close the deficit.

As details of the spending proposal spread protesters demonstrated outside the Capitol against cuts to Medi-Cal, CalWORKS and other social services.

“Devastating.” That’s the word from Darcel Harris, executive director of the California Black Health Network: The cuts would "put further strain on an already taxed community safety net and exacerbate the myriad problems faced by underserved populations during this economic downturn," said Harris.

Harris said in a statement, “decreasing provider reimbursement rates, increasing co-payments, limiting program eligibility, and reducing funds for child care are all actions that disproportionately affect the state's African American communities.”

Under the plan, the state would cap benefits for prescription drugs at six per month and limit doctor visits to 10 per year, saving more than $217 million. It would also institute co-payments - $5 for doctor visits and $50 for emergency-room services - to save an additional $557 million.

Brown proposes to eliminate the state's adult daycare program, affecting 27,000 Californians. That reduction would save more than $193 million. He also wants to reduce Medi-Cal payments to health care providers by 10 percent.

Another target is In-Home Supportive Services, which provides house cleaning, transportation and personal care for roughly 456,400 low-income and disabled Californians.

Brown would cut service hours across the board by 8.4 percent. That would follow a 3.6 percent cut enacted by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year.

The Brown administration estimates that about 21,000 recipients would be exempted from the reduced hours because they might otherwise be sent to nursing homes, which the state would likely subsidize.

The proposal also eliminates domestic services such as housework and cooking for residents who live with a care provider - about 48 percent of all recipients - and minors living with a parent "who is able and available" to provide the services. The cut would affect more than 300,000 Californians and save more than $236 million.

Brown would also raise the bar for In-Home Supportive Services eligibility, requiring a doctor's written certification that state services are necessary to prevent nursing home care. The budget shows that about 43,000 recipients would lose their services as a result, and the state would save $120.5 million.

Some critics however predict the public might be willing to go along with the governor’s agenda – if it means balancing the budget.

K-12 schools were mostly spared the governor explained they’ve already been hit hard. But the state’s battered colleges are in for more pain, the proposal exacts cuts totaling a combined $1 billion from the University of California and the California State University systems, which together serve 663,000 students. Additional cuts will be made to prisons and the courts.

“For 10 years, we’ve had budget gimmicks and tricks that pushed us deep into debt. We must now return California to fiscal responsibility and get our state on the road to economic recovery and job growth,” he said in a statement.

Brown immediately won praise from Democratic leaders, though Republicans condemned the tax extensions, promising to fight to keep them from reaching the ballot. Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, called the budget a "comprehensive framework" that he has committed to enacting despite the tough cuts Democrats will have to agree to.

"The $12 billion in cuts is ". . . unprecedented ".... If existing taxes are not approved, then double that, and no one will stand for that ". . . Times and our duty demand we no longer allow this fiscal crisis to linger,” Steinberg said. He asked Republicans to approach the budget with shared sacrifice in mind.

But Republicans appeared in no mood for compromise. Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga:

“First things first! Democrats need to make permanent spending reductions and enact reforms that change the way state government operates. There's nothing in this budget to help stimulate the economy and create jobs. Senate Republicans believe higher taxes will further delay putting Californians back to work.”

The Senate will begin holding budget hearings Thursday.

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