Slam After Slam For People With Disabilities in California’s New Budget

Does this headline read like deja vu to you? With the global recession is coming a wave of devastating budget cuts for people with disabilities as governments struggle to address funding shortages. Lauredhel just covered the major cuts in Australia’s new budget that impacted people with disabilities, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California recently unveiled a revised budget for California that was nothing short of breathtaking. And not in a good way.

A few highlights:

  • 60% of state funding for local mental health problems is being eliminated.
  • CalWorks, California’s welfare-to-work program, is being severely cut and it’s targeted for a ‘trigger cut,’ meaning that it will be eliminated if California is unable to meet revenue goals.
  • 142,000 low income children are going to be without state-subsidized day care.
  • In-Home Support Services (IHSS), which provides community-based care to people with disabilities and the elderly, is being slashed by one third (it was originally rumoured that it would be targeted for elimination) and it is also slated for a trigger cut. This is going to force many people living independently right now into institutions in addition to eliminating thousands of jobs.
  • The California Food Assistance Program is being eliminated.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for elderly and disabled people is being slashed; the payments provided are already absurdly low.
  • One billion dollars in cuts to health care programs are being proposed.
  • Adult Day Health Care is being eliminated.
  • Programs that provide health services to recent immigrants are being eliminated.
  • Eligibility for some social services is being cut; people at 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) who are receiving assistance now will not be receiving it as a result of these cuts, which reduce eligibility to 200% of the FPL. (Just for reference, here are the current poverty guidelines.)
  • Vision benefits are being eliminated from the Healthy Families program.
  • More trigger cuts for homeless youth.
  • ‘Federally optional’ Medi-Cal benefits (physical therapy and medical supplies, for example) are targeted with trigger cuts.

These cuts disproportionately impact some of California’s most vulnerable. Low income families, children, and people with disabilities. The people who are most in need right now are the first to be eliminated from the California budget. I think that says a lot about the priorities in this state. The governor claims that the state ‘no longer has low-hanging fruits’ to suggest that this decision was difficult. I disagree. There were other options.

Over at Calitics, Robert Cruickshank summed things up pretty neatly:

Arnold Schwarzenegger said “the budget should be a reflection of California’s values.” If that’s the case, then California’s values are protecting the wealthy and the large corporations from having to contribute anything to this society while making old people and children suffer. Arnold’s California is a place where if you aren’t wealthy, you don’t deserve to have health, food, or any other form of economic security.

Today’s May Revise should be seen then as the bill for protecting the rich and the large corporations. $19 billion in cuts, particularly to health care for the kids and the elderly, and to the CalWORKS program that helps reduce child poverty, would not be proposed if Arnold Schwarzenegger valued their lives and their economic security. (‘What It’ll Cost California To Protect The Rich‘)

This budget is nothing short of horrific. Really, that’s the only word I can come up with to describe it. It’s taken me this long to write about it because every time I sit down to do so, I question my belief in a just world. And I question my belief in California, a place I have spent most of my life in. This budget runs contrary to everything I believe in, and it’s a pretty stark refutation of what conservatives are fond of calling ‘San Francisco values.’

Those who think that California is a bastion of liberalism, may I present Exhibit A?

The government is very eager to not increase taxes, a pledge it appears to be sticking with in this budget. This means that as the state faces a catastrophic shortfall brought about by decades of fiscal mismanagement, the only way to try and address the problem is to eviscerate the budget.

Meanwhile, prison spending is on the rise because California is incredibly incarceration happy, while the Governor also proposes shifting responsibility for caring for prisoners to local communities, ignoring the fact that they are ill equipped (financially and facilities-wise) to do so. Our prison system is already crowded, support for disabled and chronically ill prisoners is already inadequate, and we propose making conditions in California prisons even worse while slashing community budgets, education, and social services?

These cuts are wrong, not just because they are painful in the short term, but because they will have far-reaching repercussions for California. Growing up in a recession can shape the direction of the rest of your life. Some Californians are literally not going to survive this. Others will find their opportunities and choices limited into the future. They will make less money. They will be less likely to go to college, especially when one combines slashes to education with ever-skyrocketing costs of college attendance.  As abby jean pointed out recently, poverty has health impacts and what California is doing right now is expanding the lower classes and perpetuating poverty.

The Governor’s Revised Budget is not just an offense to human decency. It’s also wrong for California.

Further Reading:

4 Comments

  1. Horrifying!! Thanks for laying it all out in one place.

    The one thing I wanted to say is, please don’t write about these in the definitive tone (“is being”). This is a proposal and we still have some time to stop this madness, and it will take a lot of activist energy, which is not fueled by feeling like we’ve already lost.

  2. Gag. I’m involved with the movement for higher education, and I recently received an ecstatic email about the Governator’s promise to restore funding to the CSU, UC, and community college system. I immediately asked myself: “but what are we sacrificing?” I’m such a huge supporter of higher education and educational access, but what the hell is the point of having fully funded colleges if we can’t support the kids before they are adults? We are ripping away so many services from families and children and people with disabilities; if people can’t get basic human services, how can we expect them to be prepared or have the means to get a college degree? Gross.

  3. I’m just boggling, considering the amount of money that must pump into California through the film, tourism and IT industries. I mean, I realise Hollywood’s in trouble and all, but when you compare the circumstances of California to those of other regions which have lost their traditional industries and not found new, high-grossing ones… it seems like CA, of all places, ought to be in a position to tax the well-off harder instead of putting the most vulnerable citizens in penury.

    But then, we shouldn’t be surprised. Governments, be they US, UK, or I suspect in many, many other countries, have a nasty little habit of kicking the people who are already down.

  4. Ugh.

    I’ve said it before – I’d rather the money taken from mom’s paycheck for Cigna be taxes so everyone gets healthcare. Or food. Or shelter. Silly little things like that.

    It’s midterm election season here in America, so we’re seeing ads for governors (in some states, including mine) and representatives (2 year terms) and senators (6 year terms). Being in Tennessee, I want to throw things at the TV. I felt so good tearing up a flyer from a conservative candidate. Finally, something physical!

    And I may have yelled at the TV when one white man running for something was like “I want to make this a state for jobs.” or something and I said “then why not educate the future workers?!”

    And there’s one that keeps saying “I don’t want my grandchildren to suffer.” And I’m like yeah, I don’t want the next generation to suffer either – healthcare, better programs for the poor and disabled, yeah! But I’m 99% sure they mean “taxes”.

    Did the governator up the “war” on drugs, which will surely fill the prisons even more?