So far, I have supported Governor Brown’s budget proposal. I believe he is indeed taking a mature and realistic approach in trying to balance our budget under these most difficult circumstances.
We like to talk about “shared sacrifice” in addressing this crisis, but let’s not delude ourselves – the sacrifice is not actually being shared. In fact, the sacrifice is almost exclusively being asked of our children and grandchildren. Add in the elderly and the disabled for good measure and you’ve identified almost everyone who is sharing in the sacrifice. Now, retirees and public servants are about to be thrown onto the pile.
The Conference Committee has adopted most of the Governor’s budget proposals. Here are some of the $12.5 billion in cuts adopted thus far; you’ll notice many directly or indirectly affect children:
- Childcare: $716 million reduction – Includes reducing the number of preschool slots by 15%
- Higher Education: $500 million cut from California State University, $500 million cut from University of California, and $400 million cut from Community Colleges
- Health and Human Services: $6 billion cut, including:
- Department of Developmental Services: $500 million cut from services to developmentally-disabled children and adults
- CalWORKS: $1.1 billion from this program providing aid to poor, single parents
- Medi-Cal: $1.6 billion cut in healthcare services for extremely poor families
- State Civil Servants: $700 million cut
Additionally, our state parks have historically been underfunded and under-maintained for years and this year will be the worst to come. These parks preserve California’s rich history and natural resources. They also used to serve as a remote classroom for our state’s children – an important function often overlooked. Now, however, many are closed part time, and many will completely shut down due to budget cuts.
Even the most promising option for our children to make a better life for themselves – obtaining a college education – has become more and more difficult. Fees and tuition at all three of California’s higher education systems (California State University, University of California, and Community Colleges) have risen dramatically in recent years.
One-fifth of California’s children are living in poverty. Across the nation, income inequality is at record levels – wealth has become concentrated so that 1% of our population owns more than 20% of the total wealth. Yet, we have reduced corporate taxes repeatedly over the past two decades. We cannot even summon the political will to tax the extraction of a state resource – oil – even though the oil companies continue to earn record profits routinely.
So, let’s proceed to do what we have to do under the circumstances. But let’s not pretend that we are all sharing the pain. Our budget cutting has consistently and disproportionately hurt our youth.
State Senator Noreen Evans represents California’s 2nd State Senate District, which spans from the North Bay to the North Coast.s. Evans serves as Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus. This article originally appeared on her new blog.