While emailing a friend about various crises we face in our state, I was asking his opinion of the upcoming state budget. He wrote back with a typo calling it the state "bidget". I think he's onto something.
At about the moment that Governor Gavin Newsom was to announce the May Revision of the 2020-21 budget, the bottom of our economic world dropped out. With a shortfall of about 37% in revenues from all sources - personal and corporate income plus sales taxes - we face almost unprecedented cuts that will have to be parcelled out to every program and service in the state. With other demands and lack of federal revenues, California is about $54 billion short of where we were last year.
That's not a budget. It's definitely a bidget.
Right now both houses, the Assembly and Senate, are hammering out allocations of limited funding. Governor Newsom calls the overall economic debacle equivalent to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Even with the generous reserves we accrued over the last few years, we don't have enough money to cover all we desire.
The original January 2020 budget from the Governor's Department of Finance, now requires the federal "HEROES Act" financing pending in Congress. This second wave of federal help would allow California and other states to stabilize existing programs and keep services moving to those who need them. Without that federal money, drastic cuts will have to be made. It does not appear the HEROES Act is in fact going to pass. It is a sad and anguished time.
Who will get cut? What programs have legal guidelines that still have to be maintained? What debt repayments and debt services have to be paid? For over a decade the people taking the greatest hit to their supports have been the poor, those on CalWORKs, the limited welfare/work program that offers bare maintenance to those in need. People with disabilities have also seen resources and supports dry up, supplies and equipment cut. Special programs for targeted populations have been reduced. We are, in the time we lift up the role of essential workers who have been keeping us operating during shutdown, once again offered the choice of harming the working and absolute poor - or finding other means to allocate funds.
We by no means have the answers. What we are being called to do is raise our voices for those people who are both out in the pendemic-ridden workplaces serving us and who also need supports via Medi-Cal, child care, tax assistance, and so on. Those who are hightest risk with pre-existing conditions from poor health or disabilities are facing cuts to their medical and life supports. Children may lose programs for their care. Schools need more money for their virtual on-line teaching equipment and organization just as those funds are drying up.
We cannot remotely begin to advocate for every program from Court Services to food supply inspection. We therefore have taken up what we think are critical issues around which we need to raise our voices.
- We advocate for increased state Earned Income Tax Credits for the working poor.
- We advocate for a stabilization of Medi-Cal services especially for those with disabilities.
- We advocate for the Senate plan to retain increased funding for the retention of Medi-Cal coverage for undocumented income-eligible seniors regardless of documentation status.
- We advocate for the stabilization of SSI disability income expansion with no cuts.
And we adopt and support the Senate plan to use the Budget Stabilization Act revenues and income to help cover essential programs as well as other resources currently not targeted for use. Further we call for reducing other administrative budgets for even our two university systems - not instruction and student services but administration operations and incomes for high level officials.
We are supported in this by Senate Budget Chair, Holly Mitchell. We urge everyone to contact their own state Senators via our link here To contact the Senate Budget Committee for comment, email Joe.Stephenshaw@sen.ca.gov. To send a FAX TO Senator Mitchell, the number is 916-323-8386 or phone the Budget Committee staff at 916-651-4103
Then contact your Assembly Member and urge him or her to follow the Senate budget guidelines. These help preserve funding for those in need of essential services and income supports. Again, use our link above to connect with your own Assembly Member.
In light of the degree of human suffering we now have, we need a Budget not a Bidget. People's lives are at stake. We must be the voice in support of and with those who sometimes cannot speak for themselves.
Let Justice Flow Down Like a River...Amos 5:24 And let us be the force behind the current.