Hours after California state lawmakers passed a budget, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed nearly $1 billion in spending.
The Los Angeles Times has reported the cuts came to welfare, child care, special education and other programs. In total, 23 line items were vetoed from the $87.5 billion general fund budget, including $256 million from a program for school-age children of families moving off welfare, $133 million from mental health services for special education students and nearly $60 million from AIDS treatment and prevention programs.
While the governor did not give specific reasons for vetoing funding for these social programs, the California Department of Finance released a report that said doing so would increase the state’s reserve level from $375 million to $1.3 billion.
Lawmakers spent an overnight session making last minute deals to agree on the roughly $125 billion spending plan, which was a record 100 days overdue and addresses a $19.1 billion deficit – California’s 2010-11 fiscal year began July 1. Advocates were disheartened by Schwarzenegger’s vetoes especially since the L.A. Timesreported lawmakers found a compromise spending plan that largely left health and welfare programs from receiving reduced funding.
“This recession is a time when people in communities need the help the most, and yet the governor is unilaterally making these cuts,” Anthony Wright, executive director of the consumer advocacy group Health Access California, said.
Some Democrats called the governor a hypocrite for holding a news conference announcing his support for extending foster care to young adults from age 18 to 21, but then cutting $80 million in child welfare services including money for foster care.
“It is unfortunate that the governor just this past week portrayed himself as a child welfare advocate, and then within days he devastated foster kids with the stroke of his blue pencil,” Assemblywoman Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) said.
Schwarzenegger also reduced funding for programs that fight AIDS and substance abuse and provide community clinics for people without health insurance.
“Those people have no place else to go,” Nancy Berlin, director of California Partnership, a statewide coalition of advocates for the poor, said.
Berlin also said the governor’s decision to reduce funding for child care for working welfare recipients was making the lives of people who already were struggling to make ends meet much more difficult.
“We’re telling them to go out and work, and we’re going to make it harder to do that by taking their child care away from them,” she said. “It’s one of those penny-wise, pound-foolish things.”
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