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Disabled community protest budget cuts

June 22, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The state budget crisis is heading towards a big showdown in Sacramento this week. Lawmakers will be asked to approve major cuts in social service programs. Members of the disabled community were on a mission: to talk to Governor Schwarzenegger about the severe cuts to their state-subsidized care and services. For many, receiving less funding may be the difference between living independently or in a nursing home.

But, it's just not that easy to see the governor.

"I have a letter to deliver to him about these cuts. It's just to educate him and let him know he is essentially signing people's death warrant with this cuts-only budget," said Russell Rawlings, disabled protestor.

"With that 27 percent drop in revenue, we simply can't afford to pay for all the things we used to be able to pay for. It's difficult but these cuts are necessary," said Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger spokesman.

A cuts-only budget solution, though, may be the only package that gets enough votes on the Assembly and Senate floors to win approval later this week. But Democrats are going to try anyway to include an oil extraction and tobacco tax to lessen the severity of cuts to social programs. It appears the Republican votes are not there.

"At last count, I counted 19 different bills, one of those bills has taxes. I understand that might be a challenge. I certainly hope they will step up," said Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles.

The governor says he already has his veto pen ready if lawmakers send him a revised budget that includes new taxes. That would bring budget talks back to square one and the fate of California's disabled in an even worse situation -- with no money at all. The state controller will have to freeze payments to all programs if a budget fix isn't in place soon.

"It's important that the governor and Legislature don't force the state to make even more dramatic and harmful steps that impact people's lives," said John Chiang, D-State Controller.

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