By Miriam Raftery
July 30, 2009 (Sacramento)—Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently told the New York Times that he felt “perfectly fine” and said that no matter what happens with California’s budget crisis, he would still " sit down in my Jacuzzi tonight” and “lay back with a stogie.”
Now the Governor has wielded his veto power to terminate or drastically reduce funds for programs that help the most vulnerable Californians--including sick children, the disabled, AIDs patients, the poor, and others in need. His actions have triggered a massive backlash of protest reaching from San Diego to the State Capitol, including a potential legislative effort to override the Governor’s vetoes.
San Diego County health care providers are “outraged and devastated” by $384 million in vetoes from state health and welfare programs, the San Diego Union Tribune reported yesterday (http://www3.signonsandiego.com/stories/2009/jul/29/n11275819399/?metro&z...).
“They’re eroding the safety net in San Diego County and leaving the most vulnerable populations without healthcare,” Robert L. Feinberg, said head of San Diego Family Care, which runs local community clinics where at some locations, the number of uninsured patients has risen 50%.
Courage Campaign, an online activist organization, has launched a You-Tube video titled “Up in Smoke” at http://www.couragecampaign.org/page/s/UpInSmoke. The video shows the cigar-smoking Governor lolling in a Jacuzzi amid an economic crisis with “bailed-out banks making money on state-issued IOUs they refuse to cash.” The ad accuses Schwarzenegger of wanting to “balance the budget on the backs of those most vulnerable, slashing education for kids, cutting healthcare for the sick, laying off nurses and firefighters.” It urges citizens to not let California go up in smoke and publishes a phone number for people to call Governor Schwarzenegger.
“We question whether the majority of these cuts are legal,” Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg told the media, vowing to fight vetoes in health and human services programs.
But Senate minority leader Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta), whose district includes East County, supported the Governor’s action. http://www.sacbee.com/740/story/2054686.html
The Legislature presented the Governor with a budget that already made deep cuts in many of these programs and more. Schwarzenegger used line-item vetoes to make deeper cuts with a goal of creating a $500 million reserve and closing a funding gap left when the Legislature removed off-shore oil drilling and a raid on County funds from the budget.
The Governor vetoed $124 million from Child Welfare Services including funds for social workers caring for abused and neglected children, the California State Association of Counties reports. Other veto items include $120 million from Medi-Cal, $37.5 million from in-home supportive services for the medically frail, $52.1 million from AIDS/HIV programs (threatening federal matching funds as well), and $50 million more in cuts from the Healthy Families Program—which already imposed a waiting list for sick children from poor families to receive care after the Legislature’s deep budget cuts.
“No talk of preserving a safety net for the neediest here,” the Sacramento Bee reported in its July 29 Capitol Report. “Children’s and healthcare advocates estimated that nearly a million kids will be denied coverage,” the newspaper stated.
The Governor also hacked funds for domestic violence victims, the developmentally disabled, the Black Infant health program, Adolescent Family Life programs, Primary and Rural Health Program, and various aging and community based services programs including those providing food to seniors, caregiver respite care and Alzheimer’s Day Care resources. The cigar-smoking Governor also cut funds for a an anti-tobacco media campaign.
The veto cuts include $6 million more from state parks, meaning 100 parks will likely be closed, according to a report published last night at www.calitics.com.
If you wish to contact your state Senator and Assembly member to voice your views on the budget cuts and whether they should vote to override the Governor’s vetoes, you can find their phone and e-mail contact information in our Sound Off section.