In California, hard economic times are compounding as Democratic Governor Jerry Brown proposes savage budget cuts to fill a $25.4 billion hole. Brown has put borrowing to help solve this problem off the table, saying “It’s better to take our medicine now,” while revealing his budget plan in January. Also off the table is taxing corporations and the rich, as though these cuts were a burden the wealthiest shouldn’t have to bear.
Higher education is being cut by $1.4 billion, forcing colleges to make further cuts to programs and teachers’ pay and to increase fees and tuition. The University of California is facing a $500 million cut, returning funding to 1998-1999 levels, when 73,000 fewer students were enrolled. Brown’s plan also cuts $400 million from the California community college system, which could turn away 350,000 students, estimates Chancellor of California Community Colleges, Jack Scott.
California State’s health insurance program for low-income and disabled people, Medi-Cal, is to be cut by $1.7 billion. Recipients will be limited to seven doctor visits per year and face higher co-pays for doctor visits, prescriptions and hospital stays. Those who cannot pay will be denied care and referred to indigent care centers. The rates paid by Medi-Cal to health care providers will be cut by 10%, which may cause community health clinics to close, says Carmella Garcia, head of California Primary Care Association.
The Welfare-to-Work program, which provides job searching assistance, child care, and adult education to welfare recipients, is being slashed by $1.5 billion, or 50%. The state has estimated that 115,000 families and 234,000 children would lose aid under this proposal, (HealthyCal.org, 1/25/2011).
The take-home pay of one-third of unionized state workers will be cut by 8-10%, and three-day per month furloughs will continue through June. These cuts by Brown affect the income of state workers who avoided cut by Republican Governor Schwarzenegger last year.