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Mom challenges disability cuts

Newhall resident speaks at rally on behalf of her son in downtown Los Angeles

Posted: July 15, 2009 10:26 p.m.
Updated: July 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Newhall resident LeeAnn Holmes, left, and her son, Tim, look on as Rabbi Jonathan Klein, executive director of Church and Laity United for Economic Justice, speaks at a rally in downtown Los Angeles in protest of the state's budget cuts to disabled citizens.

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LeeAnn Holmes took her fight against state budget cuts to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's office in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday.

LeeAnn, the mother of Tim Holmes, a 23-year-old Newhall man whose benefits were slashed by the state to help balance the budget, spoke out against those cuts at the Life in the Balance rally in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday.

More than 250 people gathered at the rally to protest the state gouging of social services to balance the state budget, said Elizabeth Brennan, Service Employees International Union spokeswoman.

LeeAnn's message to lawmakers was simple - don't take any amount of benefits from the most needy Californians.

"We need the skill of a surgeon to diagnose the source of the excess in the budget and remove it with a scalpel, not a sledgehammer," she said.

Service Industry Employees Union Local 721 invited LeeAnn to its rally after labor representatives read her story in The Signal. Bringing LeeAnn to the rally will hopefully put a face on the budget cuts, Brennan said.

"She has a compelling story, and we wanted her to tell that story," she said.

LeeAnn's son, Tim, suffers from hydrocephalus, which causes swelling in the brain that, if left untreated can cause severe brain damage or death. The state cut 8 percent of Tim's disability payment to help balance the state's $27 billion budget deficit.

LeeAnn sprung into action shortly after watching the state reduce Tim's benefits. She isn't just trying to get what she feels her son deserves, LeeAnn said. She wants to represent all disabled Californians.

"(The disabled) don't have a voice to speak for them," LeeAnn said.

During her five-minute speech, LeeAnn said the state needs to trim the budget in ways that won't impact California's most needy residents.

After the rally, LeeAnn met with staff members from Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger's office in Los Angeles. However, the meeting won't change much, she said.

"I feel that there is a political impasse," LeeAnn said about the failure to pass a budget. "To the politicians, the politics mean more than the people."

And the people, impacted by the actions of the politicians are battling insurmountable odds, LeeAnn said.

"I saw people dealing with things far more difficult that I can comprehend," she said.

One of the speakers at the rally was a single mom who depends on the CalWORKS program to assist her with raising three teenage kids.

"She survives off of $400 a month with three teenage children," LeeAnn said.

Cuts to the CalWORKS program threaten to put the woman and her three children out on the street.

LeeAnn will continue to champion the cause of those threatened by the budget cuts.

"I know that the state legislators fly home to their districts on Friday if they're not in session," she said. "I plan to go to Cameron Smyth's office on Friday to tell him my story."

Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, said all the cuts needed to balance California's budget represent tough choices, but they must be made.

"We have an obligation to take care of those who need it, but we're short $27 billion and our revenue continues to slide," he said.

Balancing California's budget requires cutting across the board, but Smyth is sympathetic to the needy who might watch their services cut, he said.

"The disabled need to see their services cut last," Smyth said.

State Senator George Runner echoed Smyth's sentiments.

"We have to try ways to balance the budget so that services to the most needy are maintained," he said.

Runner pointed to the state prison system as an example of waste, where the state employs 10,000 administrative employees. Those employees are not responsible for guarding prisoners, he said.

"That's twice the number of prison administrators for a prison population the same size as Texas' prison population," Runner said.

"When people say we need to release prisoners to help balance the budget, I say we need to get rid of all the middle managers."
Runner said the state is closer to passing a budget than it was in late June.

"We agree on the framework, we need to agree on all the language in the bill," he said. "If everything works out, we could have a budget passed by early next week."


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