Thursday, 02 February 2023

Governor signs budget, doles out cuts

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger put his signature on the state's budget on Friday, lauding the document which state lawmakers passed on Tuesday.


The governor also announced about $700 million in cuts to the budget, which he said was necessary to keep the budget balanced and build a “prudent reserve.”


North Coast Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) said the budget was fiscally responsible; includes no new taxes, fees or special programs; has a $3.4 billion reserve; pays debt early and lowers the operating deficit.


“This budget, while not a great one, is a decent one, and it was the best one we could accomplish in 2007,” she said.


Wiggins said the budget maintains a cost of living increase for Supplementary Security Income and State Supplementary Payment recipients.

 

The state budget shows that expenditures for the Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment Program are $3.7 billion for 2007-08, up $118.7 million from the revised 2006 budget. That's due in part to an estimated increase in the average monthly caseload by 1.3 million recipients, a 1.8-percent increase over the 2006-07 projected level.

 

Schwarzenegger's 42 pages of revisions and budget cuts will affect many programs. One of the hardest hit state departments is Health and Human Services, which will suffer hundreds of millions in fiscal decreases.


Among the reductions are $34.6 million for the county grants portion of the Children's Outreach initiative in Medi-Cal and the Healthy Families Program, and $54.9 million for the Integrated Services for Homeless Adults with Serious Mental Illness Program.


Regarding the program for homeless, mentally ill adults, Schwarzenegger suggests that the program “can be restructured to meet the needs of each county’s homeless population using other county funding sources,” including federal funds.


Said Wiggins, “It is unfortunate that the governor chose to veto funding for things like funding for Medi-Cal and housing for mentally ill homeless people, from a budget which includes a $45 million tax break for people who own yachts.”


One item preserved in the budget was the Williamson Act, which gives farmers and ranchers a tax break for keeping farmland in production, and reimburses counties for lost tax revenue.


Schwarzenegger's May budget revision had targeted the $39 million planned for supporting the program this year, but the California Farm Bureau and other agriculturalists around the state kept up the pressure. Assemblyman Mike Villines (R-Fresno), the Republican Assembly leader, helped hammer out an agreement with Schwarzenegger to leave the Williamson Act funding in tax.


The new budget also includes $1.6 billion for In-Home Supportive Services, an amount that is up $97.1 million from last year. The budget summary explains that the average monthly caseload in this program is estimated to increase to 389,100 recipients, a 5.1-percent increase over the 2006-07 projected level.


The documents also state that, effective July 1, state participation in IHSS provider wages and health benefits increased from $11.10 per hour to $12.10 per hour, based on the projected growth of General Fund revenues.


The state's Military Department will receive $1.8 million and 22 positions to meet the increased demand for military funeral honors ceremonies around the state.


The increased funds will provide an additional 300 funeral honors per month which would include California National Guard members folding the United States flag and presenting it to the next of kin during the funeral ceremony. The California National Guard is required by federal law to serve as the primary provider of those services to veterans and their families who request funeral services with military honors, according to the budget summary.


The newly signed budget also includes $11.4 million General Fund and 26.4 positions to assist in implementing a statewide Veterans Home Information System, according to the budget report. That system will be based on the federal veterans health care information, and will be used to improve health care tracking and the care provided to veterans.


Wiggins said she is looking forward to getting started on next year's budget as soon as possible. She said she supports Senate Leader Don Perata’s call for a bipartisan budget revision panel to develop a multiyear plan in order to get budgets back on time.


“I agree with Sen. Perata that the state’s budget is ‘fatally broken’ because it is controlled by conflicting ballot-box mandates, dedicated funding streams and other constraints that limit what lawmakers can do,” Wiggins said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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