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AIDS Cuts Proposed for California
 
 
  Some proposed cuts, such as a $55.5 million reduction in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program and other state Office of AIDS programs, would be life-threatening, Courtney Mulhern-Pearson, policy and legislative associate for San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said.

"We were expecting cuts, but this is much, much worse than what we were expecting," said Mulhern-Pearson, adding that about 35,000 low-income Californians with AIDS rely on the drug assistance program.

Schwarzenegger's plan would force AIDS patients to bear more of the cost for medication while reducing or eliminating HIV/AIDS programs such as counseling, monitoring and educational services.


Governor proposes deep cuts, with more to come

Matthew Yi, SF Chronicle Sacramento Bureau

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

(05-27) 04:00 PDT Sacramento - --

More than 200 state parks would be closed, college students would no longer receive Cal Grants and millions of Californians would lose health and welfare assistance under the latest proposal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to deal with the state budget crisis.

The plan, released Tuesday by the governor's finance officials, details how Schwarzenegger proposes to cut $5.5 billion from the state budget instead of borrowing from Wall Street to help close a huge deficit.

But even as the governor's proposed cuts were being announced, state finance officials were scrambling to figure out how to close the newest gap: a $3 billion hole created in part by the worsening economy.

Last week, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor said the state's budget deficit now stands at $24.3 billion - $3 billion worse than the $21.3 billion estimate Schwarzenegger had planned for.

The changing deficit estimates and the governor's budget revisions are frustrating lawmakers.

"This is creating chaos in this legislative process," said Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, chairwoman of the budget committee that includes lawmakers from both houses of the Legislature.

"We continue to get revised figures and nobody knows what to work with," she said.

Ana Matosantos, Schwarzenegger's chief deputy finance director, said the state is facing an unprecedented fiscal problem and finance officials are working as fast as they can. She wouldn't say how the governor would fill the additional $3 billion hole, but added the proposal would be ready Friday.

California's financial morass has been thickening by the day despite Schwarzenegger and the Legislature enacting in February a budget that would solve a nearly $42 billion deficit by the middle of next year through cuts, temporary tax increases and borrowing that required voter approval.

Following the defeat last week of five of six budget-related measures, Schwarzenegger said the message from voters was to balance the budget through cuts rather than through borrowing, raising taxes or accounting gimmicks.

With the governor remaining adamant about not raising taxes and avoiding budget maneuvering to solve the state's $24.3 billion deficit, chances are that his ideas to close the remaining $3 billion gap will come from more spending cuts.

On Tuesday, the governor's finance officials released the following details on how the governor would cut $5.5 billion through June 2010:

-- $750 million from the University of California and California State University systems, bringing the total reduction over two fiscal years to nearly $2 billion.

-- $10.3 million - Eliminate all state general fund spending for UC Hastings College of Law.

-- $173 million - Eliminate new Cal Grants.

-- $70 million - Eliminate general fund support for state parks, potentially closing 80 percent of them.

-- $247.8 million - Eliminate the Healthy Families program, which provides health care to nearly 1 million poor children.

-- $1.3 billion - Eliminate the CalWorks program, which primarily helps unemployed single mothers find jobs.

-- $809 million - Release nonviolent, non-serious, non-sex offenders one year early, and reduce the Corrections Department's contract work, rehabilitation and education programs.

Some proposed cuts, such as a $55.5 million reduction in the AIDS Drug Assistance Program and other state Office of AIDS programs, would be life-threatening, Courtney Mulhern-Pearson, policy and legislative associate for San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said.

"We were expecting cuts, but this is much, much worse than what we were expecting," said Mulhern-Pearson, adding that about 35,000 low-income Californians with AIDS rely on the drug assistance program.

Schwarzenegger's plan would force AIDS patients to bear more of the cost for medication while reducing or eliminating HIV/AIDS programs such as counseling, monitoring and educational services
.

Another problem with making drastic cuts or eliminating programs is that the state would lose out on billions of federal matching dollars, lawmakers said.

For example, California would lose $500 million in federal funding if it decides to eliminate Healthy Families, and the state would lose more than $4 billion if CalWorks program is halted.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Baldwin Vista (Los Angeles County), said a round of cuts on all programs would have to be considered before "wholesale elimination of programs."

But determining the size of the state's budget hole, which has been a constantly changing number, is imperative, she said.

"I'm not ready to panic right now," Bass said. "We just need to take a deep breath and we need to have a real objective assessment of where the (deficit) is."

E-mail Matthew Yi at myi@sfchronicle.com.


Billions in new cuts loom for California - including eliminating welfare and closing most state parks

By Karen de Sa

Mercury News
Posted: 05/26/2009 07:19:35 PM PDT
Updated: 05/27/2009 07:48:21 AM PDT

Faced with a ballooning deficit and a clear signal that voters won't pay more to fix it, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a budget plan Tuesday that would eliminate welfare, drop 1 million poor children from health insurance, cut off new grants for college students and shut down 80 percent of state parks.

In a state that long has prided itself on its social safety net, it could well go down in history as the most drastic reduction in social programs ever. And billions in further cuts will be unveiled later this week.

The governor's proposal to whack an additional $5.5 billion from state programs stunned even longtime Capitol-watchers with its blunt force. Ending cash assistance for 1.3 million impoverished state residents, for example, would make California the only state with no welfare program.

"Every single first-world nation has a safety net program for children," said Will Lightbourne, Santa Clara County's social services director. "This would return us to the era of Dickens - you'd have to go back to the 19th century to find a comparable proposal."

The governor's office reiterated that the cuts were painful but unavoidable, with the proposed budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year already outdated before lawmakers even begin debate. Schwarzenegger's finance team now says the deficit will grow to $24.3 billion by July 1, up from the previous $21.3 billion projected shortfall.

"The scope and the severity of this recession have forced us to put options on the table that would have been unthinkable just a few short months ago," said H.D. Palmer, the state's deputy director of finance.

Schwarzenegger had warned before last week's special election that if voters did not approve a host of tax and budget-reform measures, stunning cuts to social services, education and other vital state programs would be necessary.

The deepest cuts

So, in the wake of the resounding "no" that came from a disillusioned electorate, he has held true to his promise and then some:

- The budget proposal would eliminate vast swaths of programs, including CalWORKs - the welfare program serving more than 521,000 families who now receive $526 average monthly grants - and Healthy Families, which subsidizes health care for low-income children whose families don't qualify for Medi-Cal. Those cuts would also cost the state billions in federal matching funds.

- Medi-Cal coverage for dialysis and for breast and cervical cancer treatment for those over age 65 would be cut. Undocumented immigrants would lose nonemergency health care.

- In the prisons, rehabilitation, education and vocational programs would be hacked. So would the sentences of nonviolent, non-serious offenders, who would go free a year early.

- More than 200,000 college-bound students would lose some or all of their tuition assistance under the Cal Grant program. New grants for students to attend college would be eliminated, and existing grants would be reduced. All of that would come on top of $335 million in cuts for the University of California and California State University systems - which already have seen $415 million in cuts this year, forcing student fee increases.

- Surprisingly spared the ax - so far, anyway - were the state's battered K-12 schools. Though they represent California's single biggest budget expense, the governor proposed no new cuts Tuesday.

Political stunt?

But the depth of the proposal had some analysts calling it a political stunt to jar bickering legislators, and still others saying nothing would surprise them in these recessionary times of record unemployment.

Lauren Asher, acting president of the nonprofit Institute for College Access & Success in Berkeley, said eliminating tens of millions in financial aid would reduce students' tuition assistance by up to $9,708 apiece. At least 118,000 students would lose their entire grants, she said, adding that "the proposed cuts will wreak havoc with college plans for this fall."

The governor's budget also proposes massive and historic cuts to California's system of 279 state parks, from Big Basin Redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Malibu beaches. Schwarzenegger has proposed cutting general fund money to parks in half this year and eliminating it entirely next year - cuts on a scale that have never been imposed on the state parks system since it began in earnest in the 1920s.

"Absolutely, we will have to close parks. The question is how many," said Roy Stearns, a spokesman for the state parks department in Sacramento.

While Schwarzenegger and Republican legislators have made clear new taxes or fees are off the table, Assembly budget committee Chairwoman Noreen Evans - embodying Democratic reaction to the Republican governor's proposal - vowed to push for new revenue measures such as taxes on soda or oil production as alternatives to more spending cuts.

"I will look under every rock and every leaf," the Santa Rosa Democrat said, "so that we can make sure women and children are fed and their medical needs are taken care of."

 
 
 
 
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