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Governor pleads for more federal funding

December 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
There is no end in sight to California's budget crisis, and the governor is warning of massive cuts to social services if the federal government doesn't step in to help.You can expect the protests to get louder and angrier in Sacramento next year, because tax revenues are still down and the state is facing a $21 billion deficit, and deeper budget cuts are inevitable.

To head off cuts, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, pleading with the feds to start stepping up to the plate with the billions of dollars Washington owes, or else there'll be consequences to the safety net that protects the poor.

"California is now faced with the decision to eliminate the entire in-home supportive services program," Schwarzenegger stated in the letter.

"It's important to get those federal dollars into the state. So the state and county governments can provide the services Californians need right now," said Jean Ross of the California Budget Project.

While Schwarzenegger's relationship with the White House has greatly improved under President Barak Obama, he has ramped up the rhetoric in recent days, and perhaps giving a preview of how he expects to balance the budget.

"My responsibility is to make sure that we get our fair share of federal money, and right now, I don't feel we're getting our fair share of federal money in many different areas," said the governor.

Washington, though, hardly ever comes through with the money. California still gets back less than 80 cents for every dollar it sends to the federal treasury.

That makes elimination of programs for the poor like in-home care all too real.

"I think it would an economic and humanitarian disaster," said Deb Roth, a home care advocate.

Transportation advocates are also reeling. They're upset the governor's latest budget plan includes a complicated scheme that enables him to raid the gas tax fund but leaves drivers and public transit users in a lurch.

"The money they pay the pump isn't going to get used to fix the roads the way they thought it was. It means a big chunk of that money is going to other programs that have nothing to do with transportation," said Jim Earp, a transportation advocate.

State workers are nervous too, and they're worried that their three-day a month furloughs would be extended past June.

If no new federal money comes in and state leaders balance the budget with only cuts, that would bring California's general fund spending to what it was a little more than a decade ago.


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