Social Services Funding Unlikely to be Restored by Budget

Many advocates of social services programs are calling for Gov. Jerry Brown to increase funding in California's next budget. Here, Gov. Jerry Brown.
Many advocates of social services programs are calling for Gov. Jerry Brown to increase funding in California's next budget. Here, Gov. Jerry Brown. | Photo: Phil Konstantin/Flickr/Creative Commons

In the past four years, Gov. Jerry Brown has pulled California out of $26 billion in debt -- gains made in part through deep cuts to social services. As Brown released the next fiscal year's budget proposal on Friday morning, leaders of social services nonprofits hoped to see this funding restored.

And got little of what they wanted.

"Over the years we've seen a lot of cuts to social services and investment in the creation of prisons instead of programs that prevent people from being incarcerated in the first place," said Rosa Aqeel, legislative director of PICO California, a group of nonprofits that advocates on a wide range of issues.

"I think investing hundreds of millions into more jail space isn't going to counter balance the fact that services have been cut," she said.

Social services have been already overshadowed by a fight over University of California tuition hikes.

Planned Parenthood leaders in California blasted the governor for not reimbursing cuts to Medi-Cal made in 2011. "If we don't invest in medical provider rates, there's a disconnect between this wonderful opportunity with the Affordable Care Act and actually implementing it on the ground," said Celinda Vazquez, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood in Los Angeles. "A record number of Angelenos have signed up for expanded Medi-Cal through Covered California, but if we aren't able to get adequate funding there aren't going to be enough providers," she said.

At a press conference, Brown said that the state's healthy financial situation was achieved through "tough decisions, tough budget cuts" and that about one third of the state's budget already goes toward programs for the poor, elderly, and youth. Pressed by reporters at the proposal's unveiling, Brown acknowledged poverty was a problem in California but replied that, "I would say California does more than most states to mitigate that."

Not everyone felt the budget overlooked them. Home care workers were happy to find that Brown's budget would restore a 7 percent cut made to in-home care for programs to assist elderly or disabled residents.

"With a multi-billion budget surplus, there is no reason for California to deny care with dignity to our residents who are elderly or have disabilities," said Doug Moore, executive director of United Domestic Workers of America, in a press release.

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Brown's proposal would mark a 1.4 percent increase over the current budget, pay down state debt, sock away money into a rainy day fund required by Proposition 2. Brown said he plans to spend state money on Proposition 1 water bond projects next year.

"It's not a time for exuberant overkill in our budget spending," he said.

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