Almost all state programs are facing austerity measures
New California Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom were sworn in January 3rd, marking a Democratic sweep at the top of the California political ladder. Brown, who has been both Oakland Mayor and State Attorney General, and Newsom, formerly Mayor of San Francisco, were joined by former San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, who became both the state’s first female and first African-American Attorney General.
Brown emerged the victor in the Governor’s race last November after defeating Republican candidate and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who spent almost $150 million dollars of her own money in a failed bid to win the Governorship. Brown ran a masterful campaign on a fraction of the money that Whitman poured into hers. He successfully painted his opponent as not only out-of-touch with Californian voters with the aid of some crafty ads showing Whitman and Schwarzenegger parroting GOP talking points, but also lacking the experience required to lift the Golden State out of the doldrums. Fearing a Governator redux, the voters agreed with Brown, who now assumes the highest office in the state for the third time after serving as Governor from 1975-1983.
Brown’s focus now turns to the formidable $25 billion budget shortfall plaguing the Golden State. It appears that slashing funding for public services and an extension of tax hikes on automobiles, income, and purchases will be the order of the day, and Californians can expect some serious compromises in order to get the budget under control. Brown’s $84.6 billion dollar general fund spending plan will be comprised of approximately half tax increases, half spending cuts in order to get the budget shortfall closed within eighteen months.
It’s not much of a surprise that higher education faces steep cuts: $500 million from both the UC and California State schools, and an additional $400 million from community colleges, which amounts to some twenty percent of financial support from the state. Chabot students can expect their cost-per-unit to rise from $26 to $36, which should account for an extra $110 million in revenues.
Medi-CAL also faces a nearly $2 billion reduction in services, including a cap on doctor visits, the establishing of co-payments for doctor visits and emergency room services, and a ten percent reduction in payments to physicians, pharmacies, and clinics. Elsewhere, Californians can expect funding from everything from CAL-Works welfare-to-work programs, to county fairs and state parks to be slashed.
Among the more controversial aspects of Brown’s proposal would be the elimination of state redevelopment projects to help balance the budget, including Alameda County’s own agency, which helps fund a number of local projects in
unincorporated Alameda County, such as a proposed community center and fire station in Cherryland. Landscaping improvements along East 14th Street in Ashland would also be threatened by these cuts. Should Brown’s budget proposal pass, the agency would shut its doors effective July 1st, although projects that are already underway, such as the San Lorenzo Library redevelopment, will be completed as planned.
The cuts even extend to Sacramento. Brown announced that his own office budget would be cut by 25%, and asked state agencies to turn in taxpayer-funded automobiles that were non-essential to state business, as well as halting all purchases on new state vehicles immediately. If state legislators approve Brown’s financial plan by March, a special election will be held in June that will ask voters to extend tax hikes that were passed in 2009 on purchases, incomes, and vehicles for another five years.
One thing is for certain, times are tough all over and Brown is being evenhanded with his cuts.