California’s Budget – More Attacks on Workers and the Poor

The latest budget signed by Governor Brown is an outrage. The nearly $16 billion budget deficit has once again been paid for by huge cuts to workers and the poor.

For years, the state government, whether Democrats or Republicans, have been cutting taxes to corporations and the super rich while millions of workers have lost their jobs and had their homes reclaimed by banks. And so, as California brings in less revenue from income taxes, property taxes, and sales taxes, the state protects the rich, creates a budget shortage, and then makes us pay for it.

Have any of largest companies in the world headquartered here in California been forced to pay to cover any of this? Wells Fargo or Google or Intel or Hewlett-Packard or Apple – have they had to pay any more over the years? And the oil companies, making record profits year after year, have they ever had to pay an extra dime? Or have any of the billionaires or multi-millionaires here been forced to pay to for this? Never! Corporations and the rich have been protected every step of the way.

The only ones who have had to pay for this crisis have been working families and the poor. We’ve paid through cuts to education, health care, our wages, our retirements, through losing our houses, losing our savings, and through having the assistance we rely on slashed away. And once again California has gone after the poorest in the state.

CALWORKS, financial assistance for low-income families, has been cut in half. Weekly benefits will now only last 24 months instead of 48. This is a huge blow to the unemployed in California who are out of work for an average of 37 months at a time. This means many families could now have no assistance at all for years.

Over $1 billion has been cut from Medi-Cal, the state health insurance for the poor. Most of this cut will come from kicking about 1.4 million poor families and seniors off of Medi-Cal and onto private plans with extremely reduced coverage. This also includes eliminating the Healthy Families program, which means 880,000 of the state’s poorest children will only be able to rely on Medi-Cal with its extremely reduced services.

Other cuts include $240 million from child care services, $90 million from In Home Health Services, which provides care for the disabled and the elderly, and $402 million from 182,000 state workers, which is about a 5 percent pay cut.

In addition to these huge cuts, Governor Brown has already agreed to massive cuts to education if his tax bill doesn’t pass in November. These cuts would be devastating – $5.5 billion from K-12 schools and community colleges, and $500 million from California’s universities.

Many people in California are starting to feel they must vote for the November tax bill. 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 past tax breaks handed out to the rich, it’s not even an increase at all.

It’s understandable that many people feel forced to vote for this bill when huge cuts are promised if they don’t. It’s like blackmail – vote yes or get cut. But whether this bill passes or not – this fight is not over. Even if it passes, the amount of money raised will do nothing to restore the decades of past cuts. Either way, the state is not through making workers pay for this crisis. The corporations and their politicians want to take a lot more from us.

It’s going to take more than five minutes in a ballot box to fight against these cuts. It’s going to take workers up and down the state organizing together in massive numbers to show our force. These are our lives, our families, our futures, and these attacks can’t keep going on without a fight!