California meltdown

A weekly flyover of the state budget crisis

We’d like to be able to tell you the crisis is over, but it’s not. Not with the state Department of Finance predicting huge deficits through 2012-13 (see below).

Aug. 20: The state Senate, after a heated debate, narrowly votes (21-19) to approve a plan to reduce the prison population of 167,700 inmates by 27,300 and form a commission to restructure sentencing laws. The plan, which would save $600 million, is a crucial part of the $24 billion July budget revisions. By day’s end, however, it is floundering in the Assembly, due to a lack of Democratic votes. The reason? Nearly a dozen Assembly Democrats will be running for higher office next year, and they fear being tagged as “soft on crime.”

Aug. 20: Capitol Weekly reports that all across the state community health clinics that serve the uninsured and poor are either cutting back services drastically or shutting down completely. The cause is a $120 million cut in funding, including $57 million from the adult dental-care program. There are more than 800 such clinics in the state serving about 4 million people, about 2.5 million of them below the poverty line. In rural areas they are often the sole source of medical care.

Aug. 21: A coalition of seniors’ and disability-rights organizations files a class-action suit to stop cuts in adult day health care services for more than 36,000 frail California residents.

Aug. 21: California State University students sue the system’s Board of Trustees for raising fees a second time this year, charging the hikes are a breach of contract. The new fees, the suit says, were not included in the price the CSU advertised in its bills for the 2009-10 semester and students were not warned that the price stated was subject to change.

Aug. 22: The Fresno Bee reports that Fresno County will end a mental-health program for children and delay plans for a psychiatric unit for adults in response to the state budget. Counties across the San Joaquin Valley, the Bee adds, are cutting mental-health services for the same reason.

Aug. 24: The state Department of Finance reports that, even with the drastic spending cuts this year, the state will face continuing budget deficits in coming years, more than $15 billion in both 2011-12 and 2012-13. The expiration of temporary tax increases approved in February, obligations to repay local governments for money “borrowed” this year (with interest), and corporate tax cuts approved in February (and worth $2 billion) will all contribute to the deficits.

Aug. 25: The Los Angeles Times reports that a 32 percent reduction in state funding is threatening the 35 Small Business Development Centers that have been instrumental in helping business owners respond to the recession. The centers offer loans and other resources using a mixture of state, federal and corporate funding. Both Chico State and Butte College have SBDC centers in Chico.

Aug. 25: The Chico-based Arc of Butte County announces that because of state budget cuts it is suspending three programs serving 197 clients. Altogether, the Arc has lost more than 20 percent of its funding since February, and it expects to lay off more than 60 employees, in addition to implementing management work furloughs and cutting health insurance and other expenditures.