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Budget cuts social services

Posted: July 28, 2009 10:08 p.m.
Updated: July 29, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gouged $656 million from the state budget as he signed the document Tuesday, forcing the Santa Clarita Senior Center to end adult day care for 300 SCV senior citizens.

Schwarzenegger exercised his line-item veto powers, but his cuts fell short of the $1.1 billion gap between the document approved by legislators and the state's projected revenue.

The governor's pencil strokes slashed $80 million from child welfare programs; $61 million in county funding to administer Medi-Cal; $52 million from AIDS prevention and treatment; $50 million for Healthy Families, the low-cost health insurance program for poor children; and $6.2 million more from state parks.

With each stroke, concerns mounted among local agencies that serve the needy.

"Our biggest hit so far that I can determine from the governor's blue pencil is about $60,000 from our adult day dare program, effectively destroying it in its present form," said Brad Berens, executive director of the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center.

Senior Center officials don't have a date for the program's last day, Berens said.

Officials at the Santa Clarita Valley Family YMCA worry that Schwarzenegger's budget could push 22 SCV families from early childhood learning programs, said Chris Clark, director of development and communications for the Santa Clarita Valley YMCA.

The Santa Clarita Valley Family YMCA provides early childhood learning programs, including before- and after-school day care, to more than 300 children from low-income families.

While Santa Clarita Valley Family YMCA officials were in constant contact with state officials on the budget cuts, it was unclear Tuesday whether the grant used by the YMCA will be eliminated or severely reduced, Clark said.

"We would like to keep the families in the program, but the reality is we can't," Clark said. "The children will probably be taken care of by family and friends."

That cuts off some of the poorest children in the Santa Clarita Valley from the YMCA's state-certified early childhood curriculum, he said.

CalWorks, which provides temporary financial and employment assistance to needy families, has been on the chopping block since the state fiscal fiasco began.

California lawmakers spared the program any further cuts, but CalWorks was altered severely under the state's plan to balance the budget, said Philip Browning, director of Los Angeles County Public Social Services.

California lawmakers eliminated the work requirement for receiving CalWorks funds and slashed the funding for those who choose to work under the program. Browning said that's a move in the wrong direction.

"In the last 10 years we put 500,000 people back to work," he said. "In the same time period, we've cut our case loads in half - from 700,000 to 350,000."

There could be more cuts to county social services, but Browning said it's too early to pinpoint the local impact.

"The state budget numbers usually take two weeks to crunch," he said.

Officials with county Supervisor Michael Antonovich declined to comment on the line-item vetoes and instead focused on the provision in the budget that allows the state to raid local property tax coffers.

Under the plan signed Tuesday, the state could borrow from counties, cities and special districts to balance the budget, said Lori Glasgow, assistant chief deputy for Antonovich.

"The state is pushing their problem down to us rather than fixing the problem themselves," she said.

State Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Simi Valley, said Schwarzenegger's cuts, while not popular, were necessary. Strickland's 19th Senate District cuts a swath through the Santa Clarita Valley.

"I think the governor is in a tough position," he said. "No one wins with a $24 billion deficit."

Schwarzenegger's finance director, Michael Genest, warned Tuesday that even with the revised budget deal, California likely will need to borrow $8 billion to $10 billion to cover its cash needs this year, and the state is likely to face another $7 billion to $8 billion deficit in the 2010-11 fiscal year.

However, California lawmakers don't think the state will make it to 2010 before another budget crisis surfaces, Strickland said. "The financial projections are falling short because the economy is going south," he said.

Tax revenues will slide along with the economy, and the state budget will fall short of lawmakers' projections by the fall, he said, predicting lawmakers will be called back into a special session to renegotiate the budget.

"It's like the movie ‘Groundhog Day,'" he said. "We keep living through the budget process over and over."

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