California’s Budget – A War on Workers and the Poor

Last week, Governor Brown made his latest proposal for California’s budget. Every May, the budget is revised once the state’s revenues come in after taxes are paid. And just like the past several years, California raised less money than expected and now plans huge cuts to cover it. This year the shortfall is nearly an additional $7 billion, making the current budget deficit $16 billion.

So what’s Brown’s proposal to make up for this huge shortfall? The same as the last several years – by waging an ongoing war on working people and the poor through cuts to everything we rely on to live. Just in the last four years, California has had a combined deficit of over $100 billion dollars, most of which has been paid for through cuts to our lives.

Brown’s latest proposal calls for $8 billion in cuts. This includes a cut of $2.5 billion from Health and Human Services. The biggest part of that cut is $1.2 billion from Medi-Cal (the state Medicaid program), $879 million from Cal Works (the state welfare program), and $224.5 million from home services for the elderly and disabled.

These are all desperately needed programs for millions of working families in California. All of these programs have already been cut to the bone by billions of dollars over the last several years. These further cuts just kick people even harder when they’ve already been pushed to the ground. These cuts will mean fewer health care services, fewer access to food stamps, less child care, shorter times of coverage. It will mean the thousands of elderly and disabled patients will lose care all together. At a time when millions are out of work, stressed out and barely scraping by, these attacks are an outrage, and may even be a death sentence to some of the neediest in the state.

In addition, Brown’s proposal will cut about $2.3 billion from education, including childcare programs and student financial aid. An additional $3.5 billion would be cut from other programs, including $401 million from state employees by reducing their hours of work by five percent.

That’s not all. At the same time, Brown is threatening even deeper cuts if voters don’t pass his ballot initiative in the November elections. This plan would raise the sales tax from 7.25 to 7.5 percent, which would be the highest in the entire country. And it would mean workers pay about $2.5 billion more every year to the state. This tax initiative would also raise income taxes between one and three percent on people earning $500,000 or more. Not only is this a tiny increase, but with all of the tax breaks handed out to the rich, it’s not even an increase at all.

This is straight black mail because if it doesn’t pass, Brown promises further cuts, including $5.5 billion from K-12 schools and community colleges, and $500 million from California’s universities. So, the threat is either pay more or get cut.

The reality is that none of these cuts need to happen. California is the ninth largest economy in the world. California has in fact never been wealthier than it is right now – there is more than enough money to not only stop all of these cuts, but actually increase funding to the services working families need. The reason there are budget deficits year after year is not because the state doesn’t have any money. These budget deficits are a conscious attack on working people throughout the state.

Over the last several years California has reduced the amount of money corporations and the super rich pay in taxes. And so every year there are budget deficits of around $10-20 billion. And meanwhile, every year, billions of dollars are cut from spending on health care, education, state workers, and other services. In other words, money is being stolen from working people and handed right back to corporations and the super rich in the form of tax breaks.

That’s right – there is a war being waged on workers and their families, and the state of California is on the side of the banks, corporations, and the super rich.