Schwarzenegger condemned for cutting nearly $1 billion from budget

Democratic lawmakers and advocates for the poor harshly criticized Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over the weekend after he vetoed nearly $1 billion from the state budget, much of it from programs intended to aid low-income families.

Schwarzenegger sliced $962 million from the spending plan sent to him by the Legislature 100 days after the start of the fiscal year July 1.

In most cases, the governor explained his line-item vetoes with boilerplate language saying the cuts were necessary to “help bring ongoing expenditures in line with existing resources and to build a prudent reserve.” In some cases Schwarzenegger pointed out that alternative funding might be available to blunt the effect of his reductions, or suggested that California will seek federal money to offset the loss of state dollars.

But those explanations did not satisfy the governor’s many critics, some of whom felt betrayed by his actions.

Sarah Jimenez, communications director for the County Welfare Directors Association, released a statement from the group calling Schwarzenegger a “hypocrite.” She noted that just last week, the governor signed Assembly Bill 12, a bill extending services to youth in foster care until age 21, and spoke about his commitment to children.

“With the stroke of his pen today, the Governor is (complicit) in more abused and neglected children facing further injury and even death, hampering county social service departments’ ability to protect our most vulnerable children,” the statement said. “The loss of $133 million…federal matching) last year, and its continuation this year, means children in the foster care system face dire futures, and tens of thousands of foster children might never see the day when they can benefit from extended support under AB 12.”

The welfare directors said the deletion of $256 million from the CalWORKs budgets means “fewer working families will be able to continue work because of the loss of vital child care services, plunging more children into poverty, while completely undermining the Governor’s goals of administering the program with efficiency and integrity.”

Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, said the governor’s veto of money for AIDS assistance and community health clinics, among other cuts, would harm California families, the health system and the economy.

“These are the wrong cuts and the wrong time: an economic recession is exactly when we need funding for community clinics and public health programs, for the health of our communities and our economy,” Wright said.

Assembly Speaker John A. Perez said Schwarzenegger’s “final actions in office were directed at making life more difficult for California’s working parents and the poorest, sickest and most elderly Californians.”

Schwarzenegger, in a press conference in Fresno, said he cut nearly $1 billion from the budget in part to satisfy the state’s lenders, who, he said, would not advance the state money to operate without a prudent reserve. He said he was willing to take the heat for the cuts because he understood that legislators could not vote for them.

“I said to myself, ‘Whatever they can’t do, then I will do,'” Schwarzenegger said.

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