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Smaller trigger cuts to education go forward

December 13, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Overly optimistic revenue projections are landing California in financial hot water. Gov. Jerry Brown announced Tuesday that "trigger cuts" will kick in, which means education and social services budgets will take yet another hit.

School districts throughout California are breathing a sigh of relief.

Enough tax revenue came in to avoid much of the $1.5-billion cut to education that could have meant seven fewer days of school.

But the mid-year trigger cuts will happen on a smaller scale. They automatically take effect next month as part of the state budget Governor Brown authorized in June.

Among the cuts, school bus service is eliminated, saving the state $248 million.

The Cal State and UC systems are losing a total of $200 million more.

Services for the disabled are being slashed $100 million.

And tuition for community college students will go up $10 per unit this summer, on top of a similar hike this fall to absorb $30 million in cuts.

"California has very sound finances," said Brown. "We're on the road to recovery, and the trigger cuts which are pulled today are a part of that process of fiscal discipline."

Republican budget leaders say the trigger cuts were necessary and show the temporary tax hikes did not need to be extended.

"We have proven yet again and again that those tax increases were not needed to balance the budget," said Assembly Budget Vice-Chairman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber).

But critics say the price of cuts over more taxes is too high, and that the elimination of bus service unfairly hits poor urban and rural kids.

"In many of those communities, they have no other choice. The parents cannot afford another car to take the kids to school," said Steve Henderson, Calif. School Employees Association.

Trigger cuts also mean another 7,500 fewer slots in subsidized childcare.

Oakland resident and mother Clarissa Doutherd warns that a similar cut hurt her last summer.

"Because my son is unable to attend pre-school and there are no other options for us, I have been unable to work. I was forced to resign," said Doutherd. "More families are going to be in my position."

The mid-year cuts total a billion dollars.

Gov. Brown used this opportunity to tout his plan to tax the rich and increase the state sales tax by a half-percentage point to avoid deeper cuts. Voters will get a say next November.

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