Faced with a $19 billion budget shortfall, Governor Schwarzenegger called for eliminating the state's welfare-to-work program, and he proposed cuts to child care and health services.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Friday proposed sweeping spending cuts to reduce the state's budget gap – now pegged at $19.1 billion – tapping welfare and health programs for elimination.
"California no longer has low-hanging fruits – we don't have any medium-hanging fruits, and we also don't have any high-hanging fruits," Schwarzenegger said, explaining the cuts Friday at a news conference in Sacramento. "We have to take the ladder from the tree and shake the whole tree."
Governor Schwarzenegger's proposed cuts are spread over many public programs, but the largest would eliminate the CalWORKS welfare program and do away with child care funding except for preschool and after-school programs, saving the state $1 billion and $1.2 billion, respectively.
State Democrats decried the plan, and promised another fight in the state's legislature this summer. “The governor’s suggestions are clearly more reflective of a hyper-partisan political agenda than in finding real solutions to our problems," said Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez in a statement. Democrats pointed out that Schwarzenegger's plan doesn't propose any tax hikes, and leaves in place $2 billion in planned corporate tax breaks.
"Now he comes forward with a vision that says children have no value," Senate budget committee chair Denise Ducheny told the San Jose Mercury News. "To tell 500,000 families they shall be homeless in lieu of delaying corporate tax breaks is hard to understand."
Schwarzenegger cited three factors as contributing to the budget shortfall: legislative resistance, reimbursement due the state from the federal government, and court decisions that blocked trims to health and human services programs. "Because these judges have prevented us from using a scalpel to go and trim some of those programs," he said, "we now have to use the ax."