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Gov to cut elderly, disabled program budgets

May 13, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to present his revised budget plan Friday that would virtually eliminate certain healthcare programs.The care that the state of California used to provide its poor, elderly and disabled individuals was once considered a model, but its existence is now in jeopardy.

Nearly half a million disabled Californians, like Helen O'Connell, get subsidized home care. There's a strong likelihood that the governor will propose the complete elimination of her program when he unveils his revised budget plan Friday.

"I'm appalled and mortified because I'll probably end up in a nursing home, and I've never been in one before and I don't want to go," said O'Connell, a home care recipient.

It's one of the drastic moves the governor is anticipated to make, given the $20 billion deficit facing the state. In-home care and health insurance for 900,000 low income children are big ticket items and can save the state a lot of money.

"Usually when the ship is sinking, the first thing the captain does is put the children, women and the infirmed in the lifeboats. Well, when this ship is sinking, this governor throws those folks overboard," said Mike Herald of the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

The governor and the legislature, though, may have little choice. They favor cutting the funding to those programs instead of total elimination and have done so in the past. But the courts have ruled that the state must provide those areas with a minimum amount of money.

"The federal judges have said, 'No, you can't go below that threshold. You can get rid of the program, but can't go below that level.' So they're forcing us to eliminate those programs instead of simply cutting back," said Aaron McLear, Schwarzenegger's press secretary.

Taking apart vital programs would cost California federal money. In many instances, for every dollar the state spends, Washington matches it, sometimes up to $9.

"It may look good on paper, but it is the epitome of penny-wise and pound foolish," said Van Nuys Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield.

Even fiscal conservatives who normally push to pare back social programs don't agree with the complete elimination.

"Everybody should be concerned. There's an element of our society of children and the elderly who can't help themselves and those are the kinds of safety nets we have to preserve," said Riverside Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries.

"I'm frustrated because I feel like he's just taking it out on people that can't defend themselves," said O'Connell.

California and 22 other cash-strapped states are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene by allowing them to get their finances in order and allowing those cuts.


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