From the desk of Rich Gordon, Assemblyman for the 21st District:
On Wednesday, June 27th, the Legislature completed work and passed the 2012-13 State Budget, which Governor Brown has signed into law. Getting to this point was certainly not easy and implementation will not make life easier for many Californians.
Some context is needed for where we started. State General Fund spending as a percentage of our economy is at its lowest level since Ronald Reagan was Governor. The state workforce is at its lowest level as a share of the state's population in almost a decade. Prior budgets closed nearly 60 percent of the state structural budget deficit.
After cutting nearly $16 billion from the Budget last year, the on-going economic downturn and slowly recovering economy has necessitated an additional $9 billion in reductions for this year. Few facets of government were spared. There were deep cuts to safety net services such as child care, the state's welfare to work program known as CalWORKS, health care services, and in-home supportive services (IHSS). Cuts to courts will lead to delays in justice and cuts to Cal Grants will make completing college more difficult for some low income students.
These were difficult decisions to make and votes to cast. These are vital services that I value and can attest to their success in our communities. However, with a budget deficit of this magnitude, it is nearly impossible to balance the budget without making reductions to programs that provide quality services and help end the systemic cycle of poverty in our state.
Cuts to this year's budget include, but are not limited to:
$612 million cut to Medi-Cal services
$225 million cut to IHSS
$13 million saving to phase out Healthy Families programs and transferring 880,000 children to the Medi-Cal program
$225 million reduction to trial courts
$240 million in savings in halting prison and court construction projects
$402 million in saving from a 5% pay cut for 182,000 state workers
$444 million savings from restructuring eligibility in CalWORKS
$245 million reduction to child care services
Closure of dozens of state parks, but with allowances for reopening if agreements are reached with federal, non-profit, or local entities
K-12 Education and Higher Education are not scheduled to experience reductions under this budget. Instead, the budget includes mid-year reductions that would be triggered based on the outcome of the November election. K-12 education would bear the brunt of the trigger cuts, with a slated reduction of $4.8 billion and the ability to reduce the school year by up to 15 days. Come November, Californians must ask themselves what type of government they want and how much they are willing to pay for it.
California's fiscal calamity took years to create. We will not solve the state's budget crisis overnight, but I am confident we are taking steps in the right direction. This budget continues to reduce the structural deficit and creates a reserve of nearly $550 million. Moreover, the budget is structured to enable the state to have a surplus within three years.
While this budget was indeed on-time and balanced, there is still plenty of work to be done. In the coming days and months, I anticipate we continue working on contentious issues, such as: the water bond, high speed rail, saving state parks, and pension reform. As soon as the Legislature adjourns for summer recess, I will be sending additional updates on these matters.
I hope to continue receiving your feedback on these issues and more. All comments can be registered on my website.
Want to blog for us? Simply click here.