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Health Care, Education and the Budget

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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Sandra Jackson says this year's education budget boils down to one thing.
"What we're looking at is cuts!" Jackson says.
Of the 7.5 billion dollars in spending reductions that are proposed in this year's budget, more than 3 billion is out of education funding. That's the biggest reduction to any department. 
Jackson is a spokeswoman for the California Teachers Association. She says education has already dealt with 17 billion dollars less in funding over the past two years.
"It's always a cut. It's not additional revenues for schools and that's problematic for us," Jackson says.
Jackson says that's meant thousands of layoffs for teachers and bigger class sizes. She says the proposed funding level is a lot better than what the Governor recommended.
A 1988 law requires that education usually gets at least 40 percent of the General Fund. That law is being suspended this year, and funds schools don't get now will be repaid to them, eventually.
The California Department of Education's Hillary McLean says although officials are upset about the cuts, at this point they're just relieved funds will start flowing again. 
"At the end of the day we're happy the budget deal is done and we look forward to a productive year and hopefully a better day for education funding in the future," McLean says.
Without a budget in place, the Department of Education hasn't been able to finance some programs like state funded child care, McLean adds. Those payments should soon be able to resume. 


Unlike education funding, the current budget proposal is kind---comparatively--- to health care spending.
After reviewing this year's health and human services budget, patient and consumer advocates brought up two points. First, that the proposed budget could have been a lot worse. And secondly, they all expressed fear of the dreaded blue pencil.
"We are concerned that the Governor could make additional cuts using his blue pencil authority," says Anthony Wright, the head of Sacramento based Health Access.
As Carmela Castellano Garcia of the California Primary Care Association notes, Governor Schwarzenegger has been known to use his blue pencil authority with gusto.
"Last year, the Governor blue penciled at least thirty million dollars in community clinic funding. So in one fell swoop, we lost thirty million dollars in funding during a time when the need for services by the uninsured in our state was growing at a tremendous pace," Castellano Garcia says.
And Rusty Selix, who heads Mental Health America California, says he hoped the Democrats worked out a deal with the Governor to keep the blue pencil out of the process.
"We're hoping there's an agreement on the total size of the budget. And that there's an agreement there won't be any major surprises," Selix says. 
As it is, the current budget proposal would mean in home support services will lose 300 million dollars. That equals about a half hour of work per day per employee. Medi-Cal will see 200 million in cuts, those will happen by shifting seniors and the disabled to managed style care. 
Those budget lines receive federal matching dollars, and those funds helped balance this budget. Wright says that means it's unlikely they will get the blue pencil treatment.
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