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Friday, February 11, 2011

California Budget Pushback

Mary Omoto writes at The California Disability Action Network:

Thousands of people with developmental disabilities, families, advocates, community-based providers, workers, regional centers and others filled to capacity the hearing room, overflow rooms, and hallways at the State Capitol for a 6 hour Senate Budget Subcommittee hearing and at a protest rally in Los Angeles – both held at the same time yesterday – in opposition to Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed $750 million reduction in State general fund spending for regional center and other developmental services.

Well over 1,000 people filled to capacity the main hearing room, balcony, overflow rooms, hallways at the State Capitol were even larger than the enormous crowds that packed a similar Assembly Budget Subcommittee hearing on February 3rd, covering the same budget issues. Many were protesting outside the State Capitol.

The lines of people wanting to testify filled both sides of the main hearing room, and then continued outside the room down the entire length of the hallway to the other end of the building (see photo above). Well over 150 people –including from people from an impromptu meeting immediate after the end of the hearing by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, subcommittee chair, with nearly 200 advocates who were among the many who could not get into the main hearing room. The gave the senator a standing ovation when he entered the room for his willingness to meet and hear additional public comments.

The turn-out for the February 3rd and 10th budget subcommittee hearings were the largest in several years, according to State Capitol police and other security.

California Healthline reports on the hearing:

It's unclear how much will be changed from the budget proposal that axes $6 billion in health-related services, including the $1.7 billion in cuts to Medi-Cal and cutbacks in regional centers for people with developmental disabilities that were being protested yesterday.

Those regional centers were set up by passage of the Lanterman Act back in 1969, which first established the state program for the developmentally disabled, said advocate Shirley Dove.

"The proudest day in California history was when the Lanterman Act was passed," Dove said. "And the worst day in California would be watching it go."

The Los Angeles Daily News has an audio slideshow of the Van Nuys rally.

Dan Walters writes in The Sacramento Bee:

Hundreds of developmentally disabled Californians and their parents and care providers packed the Capitol on Thursday to angrily or tearfully denounce Gov. Jerry Brown's 2011-12 budget.

It was the latest outpouring of opposition to cuts in health and welfare services he says are needed to close a chronic deficit. Testifying en masse at almost daily legislative hearings, advocates for the poor, the aged and the disabled have hammered on two themes:

• Billions of dollars in service cuts would imperil recipients' lives, force them into expensive nursing homes, emergency rooms and even jail cells or, in the case of child care, make it tougher for parents to hold jobs; and

• Many cuts would run afoul of federal entitlement laws and/or court decisions and would be tied up in litigation for months, if not years.


What if Brown and legislators defy the opposition and whack safety-net services, thus impressing voters who respond by approving the tax increase, only to see the cuts later blocked in the courts?

That would obviously punch a big hole in the budget, but it would also feed suspicions that it was merely a cynical ploy to fool voters.