10,000 Voices Say Gov’s Budget Fails Californians
By Nancy Berlin
With less than a week until Governor Schwarzenegger unveils his revised May budget, there’s little hope that California’s struggling economy will see any reprieve from the threat of draconian cuts to vital services and unnecessary and wasteful corporate giveaways. This much has already been forecasted in the Governor and fellow Republicans’ incessant claims that California’s multi-billion dollar budget deficit can only be reigned in through sacrifice (read cuts!). But who are the ones really making the sacrifice? And what’s really at stake?
We at the Health and Human Services Network of California have a pretty good idea what the Governor and Republican leaders mean when they say that we’ll have to make “certain sacrifices” in order to close the $20 billion plus state budget gap. The HHS Network is approaching its milestone to generate more than 10,000 letters to state leaders before the Governor announces his revised budget.
In this time, we’ve seen 10,000 different reasons why the proposals to slash billions of dollars from California’s vital health and human services unfairly and disproportionately forces the sacrifice on those most vulnerable Californians: our seniors, our low-income children, our out-of-work families, our people with disabilities, our battered women, our students and our communities.
But if that wasn’t bad enough – the Governor’s plan would effectively eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs at a time when double-digit unemployment rates continue to plague the state. It’s been clearly documented that, for every billion dollars in spending cuts to essential programs like In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), Healthy Families, Medi-Cal and Cal-Works, hundreds of thousands of jobs are literally thrown away. For instance, $1 billion in cuts to IHSS alone would cost the state an astounding 215,000 jobs.[i] Likewise, similar cuts to Healthy Families and Medi-Cal would eliminate more than 70,000 additional jobs.[ii]
On the contrary, investments in these and other health and human services programs bring exponentially more revenues to California in the form of state and local tax revenues -- on top of billions in Federal matching funds. Not only do investments in these programs bring revenues to California – but they also play a critical role in fostering job growth as well as providing the much-needed services that many Californians need for when and where jobs are hard to come by.
At the very least, more than 10,000 of the Californians who participated in the HHS Network’s recent effort strongly disagree that now is the time to eliminate thousands of jobs – and for good reason. Take, for instance, Madisen, who also recently traveled to Sacramento for California Partnership’s April Action days. Madisen has worked in the non-profit sector for years. But when previous budget cuts forced several community organizations and non-profits to downsize their staff in order to survive, Madisen was left without a source of income to make ends meet. Her letter is a heart-felt plea to her Assemblymember to pass a Family Recovery Budget that will help create and maintain more jobs – so she, and others in her position, can get back on their feet. As unemployment rates across the state remain at a staggering 12.6% (March 2010 figures), thousands like Madisen are looking to Sacramento to alleviate their troubles – not aggravate them with senseless cuts that fail to make sense even on paper.
These 10,000 letters represent 10,000 reasons why proposals to implement massive scale-backs to, and in some cases the elimination of, vital services is outrageous, unthinkable and economically untenable given the current economic crisis. But these 10,000 voices are just the tip of the ice-burg. All throughout the state, nearly 2.3 million Californians are currently out of work. How much higher does this number have to grow before leaders in Sacramento realize that California cannot afford to close the budget gap at the expense of our jobs?
That’s why, when the Governor announces his revised budget, the Health and Human Services Network of California and its partners and allies will be in the Capitol delivering thousands of letters to state leaders showing them that closing the budget at the expense of our jobs and the health and human services safety net is not only unfathomable, but unequivocally disastrous for our state’s economic resuscitation.
If you’d like to see more stories of the individuals who helped us in this campaign, please visit the HHS Network CA Youtube Channel.
Nancy Berlin is Director of California Partnership and can be reached at email@example.com. California Partnership is a statewide coalition of community-based groups, organizing and advocating for the programs and policies that reduce and end poverty. We are spear-heading exciting campaigns to develop electoral power in low-income communities, give a voice to local communities in creating a more just state budget and building a movement for healthcare for everyone. For more information, please visit www.california-partnership.org
[i] Jacobs, K. (March 2010) Budget Solutions and Jobs. University of
California, Berkeley Center for labor Research and Economy, pp. 2.