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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

California In Crisis: How The Budget Debacle Screws Social Services

Staff Reporters |
April 27, 2011 | 10:33 p.m. PDT

The debate over California's budget is now being called a state-wide political war, but the casulaties are those who rely on the services bearing the brunt of the cuts. How do you know your state is in trouble? Perhaps when The Economist devotes 14 pages of analysis to piecing together why the one-time gold standard of American democracy is now synonymous with “dysfunction” and legislative stalemate, it’s time to do some soul-searching. 

(Creative Commons)
(Creative Commons)

The state faces a deficit of almost $26 billion. Gov. Jerry Brown proposed to cut half that amount in spending and raise the other half through the extension of tax increases passed in 2009. The cuts, which mostly affect the sick, the poor and the elderly, have passed, but negotiations in the state legislature broke down over taxes, leaving the state with the possibility of a budget balanced on the backs of those who can afford it least.

Neon Tommy staffers dug deep to find the people who would be hit hardest by the cuts. Services and institutions in peril include health care, courts, mental health, child care, parks and higher education ($500 million each from the UC and Cal-State systems). Brown’s pledge to spare public K-12 was contingent on the tax extensions, which are looking less and less likely to go on the ballot.

Emily Frost found a state-funded Filipinotown adult day care center, where budgetary woes threaten to dramatically change the way of life of many seniors.

Not even California’s justice system is safe from the balance sheet, reports Kaitlin Parker. Some court find themselves fighting just to stay open – again.

Ryan Faughnder found a system of mental health care that has just started to see real, overdue progress – only to see it threatened by slashes to budgets.

Many parents lucky enough to find jobs in this economy have found themselves in a pinch, because without subsidized child care they do not know who will look after their kids, Jennifer Whalen reports.

At Cal State Northridge, Alexandria Yeager found students worried about paying higher fees at a time when no one can afford to enter the job market without a degree.

Kristie Hang visited a Los Angeles state park to find a system’s future hanging in the balance.

And as Christine Detz discovered, the hopes of sparing K-12 are looking more and more like wishful thinking.

And lastly, for Intersections, Sarah Golden parses out the ramifications of the $1.7 billion cuts to Medi-Cal.

With his budget, Brown has tried to work out the math without the typical creative accounting tricks (“kicking the can down the road,” as he calls it) that has created more long-term problems. But at the end of that equation, it’s the real people who depend on state services come up short. If a deal can’t be reached in the state government, their pain will likely be doubled.

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Dexter60 (not verified) on April 29, 2011 1:23 AM

Jerry Brown, now there's a poor-man's O'mamba.
Not so subtle irony that Socialism causes the collapse of social services and then civil society. To think that humans are not a part of the ecology makes for a painful crash into reality too.
Budget? means nothing, if there's no money; maybe some dependencies need more motivation than a hand full of gimme and a mouth full of much obliged.

MontyMoose (not verified) on April 27, 2011 6:58 AM

When people start dying of chronic diseases, wasting away with out help because they have absolutely no way to pay for medical services or medicines, I personally think that there will be some sort of uprising amongst not just seniors but their children and a major increase in crime. The state made promises that now they want ( need ) to rescind, yet at what cost? Lives, homes, families, children.
Unless the State changes the laws, people will end up at the hospitals with out the money to pay and the hospitals will have to go into the red.
What is better, to treat rather inexpensively a medical problem, or to spend much more money to treat a disease or problem that has festered and now requires acute long lasting treatment at enormous cost.
While all this is happening the patient is forced to suffer pain, and suffering, mental torment and literally becoming a number on a chart dehumanizing the individual.
IS THERE AN ANSWER?, Well folks decide what is more important than human lives. !!
Are we heading toward a time of letting people die if you live too long? Its a possibility!

jeffreyavans (not verified) on April 27, 2011 1:17 AM

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