Steinberg says reductions to state programs have real world effects.
“It’s important to get out of the capitol when talking about the budget.”
To make his point, he invited a couple reporters on a budget tour of Sacramento. His 14 year old son Ari came along too.
“Ari want a half a sandwich honey? Have a half a sandwich! Eat!”
Our first lunch hour stop: Smythe Academy Middle School.
“Erik Swanson, Principal here.”
Principal Swanson says he had to let nine of his sixteen teachers go last year because of state budget cuts. He points to a box of Kleenex on his desk, and says class sizes are up, morale is down.
“The tissue over there is not for kids, it’s for adults. I tell my students that all the time.”
Swanson says this school year will also be three days shorter.
“Hey David, how’re you doing man?”
Our next stop is a different kind of classroom at the Greater Sacramento Urban League. David DeLuz heads up the organization. He says 30 percent of his clients rely on the state’s welfare to work program, known as CalWorks.
“But if they have to make a tradeoff between being in class and getting a GED and having to take a job because they have to put food on the table you know what they’re going to choose.”
Republicans support Governor Schwarzenegger’s plan that would eliminate CalWorks. Steinberg says that’s unacceptable.
“This year we have another deficit and we unfortunately have to make more cuts but what we’re fighting with the governor about right now is how deep can those cuts be.”
But the governor’s spokesman Aaron McLear says the state only has so much money to go around.
“We understand how difficult these cuts are but with a 19 billion dollar deficit there are no good solutions. What we’re not going to do is what Senator Steinberg suggested and that’s to increase taxes on the middle class by about 1.8 billion dollars.”
The Democrats plan includes income and car tax increases, and a decrease in the sales tax. The governor has said he will not sign a budget that includes tax hikes.