By Miriam Raftery
October 8, 2010 (Sacramento) The State Senate today approved a budget which is now on the Governor’s desk. The finished measure includes pension reforms for state employees and the complete elimination of the Cal-Works program as well as more deep cuts in education spending.
Democrats had sought to halt a rollback of tax breaks that haven’t taken effect yet for corporations as well as a ¼ percent change in personal income tax rate to halt what Senator Denise Ducheny (D-San Diego), who chairs the budget committee, warns will be “a generation of children left on the streets, left homeless, left without education.”
Ducheny blasted the Governor’s budget in a videotaped presentation on the Senate Floor. “It is not a budget that reflects the values of California and it is not a budget that will move California forward…The truth between the two budget proposals that are presented today is really about $4 billion,” she said.
That difference is paid for by “eliminating most successful welfare to work program in country that has served over a million children and 500,000 families helping them to get jobs….it has helped subsidize small business employers to hire those folks and keep economy moving forward,” she said, “and we sent back to Washington $4 billion of our federal tax dollars from California.”
Tax cuts demanded by Republicans are being paid for by “eliminating child care,” a move that Ducheny said “means several thousand small businesses in California will close, will fire their people and no longer be available to provide childcare for others who go to work.”
About $2 billion of the $4 billion in budget cuts are in education, she added. “ It is a massive manipulation of [Prop] 98 that makes it questionable whether it could be sustained…The difference is a $2 billion reduction in education.” Under the budget California will “spend almost $1,000 less per pupil in K-12 education than the budget of 2007,” she said.
The budget contained some good news for higher education, however.
Assembly Higher Education Committee Chair Marty Block (D-Lemon Grove)issued the following statement. “While this budget reflects some extremely difficult and challenging choices given our fiscal resources, it does not shortchange California’s college students. I am glad this budget stays true to our commitment to investing in higher education programs and maintaining our system of colleges and universities, without imposing any broad-based tax increases on hard working families.
“As chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee and a passionate advocate for higher education funding, it is particularly gratifying to me that this budget funds the UC and CSU systems at levels above the 2009-2010 budget and also provides each system with almost $200 million to make up for previous cuts. Community colleges will receive $126 million for enrollment growth and students who are owed Cal Grants will get the assistance they need to attend class." He added, "“It also throws the admission door wide open to new students who are eligible. This budget allows for 14,000 more students at the UC, 29,000 at the CSU, and 26,000 at the community colleges," said Block, noting that campuses will be able to "restore courses that were previously reduced and hire new faculty to ensure students are getting the classes they need to graduate."
“The total is 400,000 jobs that will be lost – leading us not upwards and towards a future, but in a death spiral for the economy and who California is or was,” Ducheny concluded. “We are a state that has always looked forward, has always done everything to move this country forward and invest in its economy.” She cited a San Diego Union-Tribune article last week that indicated 50% of venture capital funds spent on new technology in the U.S. are being invested in California and noted that those companies come here because we have good schools, roads, and services.
“We cannot afford to give up all of those resources, to give up our federal tax dollars, to have a million children facing homelessness, to leave, as this Governor’s budget does, child welfare decimated, “ aid Ducheny, who warned that due to recent budget cuts already “We have children who are not being placed. The social workers cannot respond in a timely manner to child abuse allegations….That’s just wrong and beneath us as Californians, in a $1.5 trillion economy to say that we can’t find a way to cover that $4 billion worth of differences that are holding us apart.”
Senate Republican Majority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth, by contrast, praised the Governor’s budget in a brief statement posted on the Republicans’ website. "Our budget brings spending down to a sustainable level, balances the budget, and does it without raising taxes,” he said. “The Democrats' plan spends much more than we have, and raises taxes nearly $5 billion on California working families in order to protect welfare programs we can't afford."
Assemblyman Martin Garrick (R-Carlsbad) expressed disappointment that it took so long to get a budget approved, then added, “I am disappointed that it took us a full 100 days into the new fiscal year to pass a state budget, but I do believe this plan will help move our state forward. This budget doesn't raise taxes, brings our state closer to living within its means, and includes budget and pension reforms.”
He added, “This compromise helps navigate our state through a difficult recession, and is not balanced on the back of job creators. This is the first step toward creating a workable rainy day fund, and achieving pension reforms that will add to our long term fiscal stability."
The Budget Conference Committee provides additional details and analysis here: http://www.senate.ca.gov/ftp/SEN/COMMITTEE/STANDING/BFR/_home/2010conf/C...