by Lynda Carson
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n late June, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democrats once again sold out to corporate interests by grabbing another billion dollars from social services for the poor in a deal that jeopardizes the state’s safety net, with permanent changes being made to life-saving programs.
In recent years, budget cuts in California have fallen with devastating impact on the lives of millions as Gov. Brown and the corporate elites running the state continue to plunder the precious resources needed for our schools, housing programs, public hospitals, prisons, health programs, state parks, programs for children and the elderly, the disabled, public libraries, public housing, food programs, and the many other life-saving programs that serve the poor and the middle class.
In contrast to the ongoing budget cuts that are destroying the safety net, Gov. Brown continues pushing for such controversial, mega-billion-dollar corporate projects as the high speed rail system ($100 billion estimate in costs), and the twin-tunnel system to divert massive amounts of fresh water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River to Southern California ($23 billion to $50 billion in estimated costs).
Brown is championing these multi-billion-dollar projects in a period when the Democrat’s recent catastrophic budget cuts have shredded the state’s schools and poverty programs, tossing millions of people into a life of uncertainty, desperation, homelessness and poverty.
According to the census of 2011, poverty in California has grown for the fourth year in a row, with about 6 million state residents with incomes below the federal poverty level. Poverty levels are rising rapidly as a direct result of catastrophic budget cuts instituted by Gov. Brown and the state’s Democrats.
Despite the extreme poverty levels already suffered by low-income Californians due to recent budget cuts, this latest plan to balance the state’s budget on the backs of the poor grabs an additional billion dollars from critically needed safety-net programs.
Among the recent catastrophic budget cuts agreed upon by Gov. Brown and the Democrats, welfare-to-work recipients in CalWORKs will be limited to two years of assistance instead of four years. The Healthy Families program was eliminated and 880,000 children were dumped into the MediCal program and 10,600 slots were eliminated for low-income children in state-subsidized childcare programs.
A coalition of 64 organizations, including the California Medical Association and the Children’s Health Coverage Coalition, rallied unsuccessfully to prevent the elimination of the Healthy Families program in Brown’s budget.
Elimination of the Healthy Families program will have a strong impact on Latino residents, which comprise 46 percent of Healthy Families beneficiaries statewide, according to Chad Silva, policy director at the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California.
These budget cuts also grabbed $225 million from the In-Home Supportive Services program that serves disabled residents, and cut childcare spending by 8.7 percent, resulting in an $80 million reduction that eliminates day care for about 10,600 children, and freezes cost-of-living adjustments through 2015.
More budget cuts are scheduled to take place if Brown’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy, and impose an additional quarter-cent hike in the state sales tax, is not agreed upon by the voters in November.
Gov. Brown and the Democrats hope that by attacking state programs that serve low-income residents, they will somehow win voter support for higher taxes. However, the changes being made to the life-saving, safety-net programs are permanent, and it is a no-win situation for poor and low-income residents who are being abused by those in power.
Using the poor as sacrificial lambs to win voter approval for higher taxes, Gov. Brown and the Democrats are permanently and intentionally shredding programs serving the poor, elderly, and disabled. As a result, they have placed the poor and downtrodden at great risk of starvation and homelessness in the very near future. Brown is also warning voters that there will be an additional $6 billion in budget cuts to schools and universities, if his tax proposal measure is rejected by the voters in November.
Lynda Carson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org