“This Budget Robs California’s Most Fragile”

Jan 19, 2006 | Front Page

ASSEMBLY SPEAKER NUNEZ CHIDES GOVERNOR OVER PROPOSAL TO CUT $200 MILLION FROM WELFARE-TO-WORK

Los Angeles

By Chris Levister

State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) says Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed $125.6 billion budget gives to the wealthy with o­ne hand and robs from California’s most fragile with the other.

“There is no question that with record revenues and another round of tax cuts for the wealthy, that the poorest Californians are o­nce again taking it in the shorts in this budget,” said Nunez.

Reacting to the governor’s proposal to slash Cal-Works, the states welfare-to-work program by $198.9 million, Nunez said, “We can have a budget done o­n time this year. But make no mistake, Assembly Democrats this time will not stand around idly by while programs to aid the poor are cut.

“There is no question that in this budget plan the rich get richer and the poor get poorer,” Nunez said.

California welfare recipients were the o­nly group targeted for major cuts when the governor presented a budget that would increase funding to education and transportation by billions of dollars.

Welfare recipients would receive no cost-of-living increase, and county welfare agencies would get no new funds to cover pay raises, higher energy bills and inflationary costs. Under the governor’s plan, a mother of two living in urban California would receive $723 a month through June 2007.

Supplementary Security Income payments for the disabled would be curtailed by $48.1 million.

A popular child-care program for working welfare recipients would also be cut.

Critics say the small savings the state could achieve from suspending cost-of-living increases and cutting other programs for the poor will amount to a drop in the bucket compared to the multi-billion dollar deficits that California still faces.

Activists and many state social service agencies expressed shock over the news.  Schwarzenegger’s plan would “drastically undermine the state’s ability to help low-income parents transition from welfare to work,” according to the Public Health Institute.  Analyst Jean Norris wrote in a study report that welfare recipients trying to get off welfare still face significant barriers. “Research overwhelmingly shows not having a car and family child care to be a huge barrier.”

The 2004 report indicates inadequate earnings, lack of access to health care, the cost of child care and lack of transportation are still among the most important factors keeping aid recipients from either getting or keeping work.

Under intense pressure to make amends with California teachers, Schwarzenegger’s spending plan would give schools $1.7 billion more than constitutional formulas require. It would cancel fee increases scheduled at state colleges and universities. And it would expand the Healthy Families program for low income children. The proposal also calls for the immediate re-payment of $920 million borrowed from the state’s school transportation spending account.

Nunez applauded Schwarzenegger’s increase in per-pupil spending. “What we are able to prove in this budget is that Prop 98 works.” He said per-pupil funding has gone from $10,300 to $10,900. “But we still have a long way to go.”

The governor defended his budget proposals.  He said he had tried to place significant curbs o­n state spending, but such proposals had been rejected by the Democrat controlled Legislature and by voters in the November special election.

“It’s a good start,” said Senate Republican leader Dick Ackerman (R-Irvine). “But we will be looking under every rock for other areas where we can possibly make cuts. It’s the responsible thing to do.”

While the spending plan delighted some lawmakers, others to include Senate Budget Committee Vice Chairman Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta) expressed concern that the budget increases spending too much and it contains a large operating budget. “Are we spending our way out of a big black hole?” said Hollingsworth.

Schwarzenegger’s announcement comes a week after he proposed $68 billion in new borrowing for public works projects.

CORRECTION:


Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth o­n State Spending Our January 19, 2005 article about State Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez written in reaction to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2006-07 State Budget proposals incorrectly quoted Senate Budget Committee Vice Chairman Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta) saying “Are we spending our way out of a big black hole?” Hollingsworth¹s spokeswoman Erica Warren issued this statement of correction:

“The budget has much to like for Republicans and some things not to like. It does not raise taxes while making large, desperately needed investments in roads and transportation, and paying off some of our inherited debt early.

We like that. However, it increases spending too much and it contains a large operating deficit. We want to see the plan o­n just exactly how our increasing revenues grow our way out of that hole and when.”

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