The governor’s poor priorities

Cutting programs now will cost more later

Mr. Harlan is president of the Butte County Health Care Coalition and a member of the Northern California State Budget Alliance.

On Jan. 8, Gov. Schwarzenegger released his proposed state budget. In it, he proposed to kill off the In-Home Supportive Services program that serves the needs of our low-income, severely disabled and senior citizens by providing them with care in their own homes.

The governor claims to be forced into making these draconian cuts while avoiding any disquieting talk of revenue enhancement or taxes. He claims to be interested in saving the taxpayers’ money. But, the truth is that In-Home Supportive Services keeps people in their homes for one-fifth of the cost of institutional care settings.

The governor also insists that IHSS is rife with fraud and deserves to be ended. However, the district attorneys of several counties dispute those allegations.

There is no real cost savings through elimination of this vital program. The reality is that reduction or elimination of this program will end up costing the state of California far more than any immediate savings will benefit the taxpayers.

This point was driven home by the lead op-ed piece in the Sacramento Bee on Jan. 6, written by Cathi Grams, Butte County director of employment and social services. She stated that the governor’s recent threat to eliminate In-Home Supportive Services would also “eliminate 350,000 jobs for working Californians.”

On another point, it is vital to the well-being of our society that basic needs of all children be met. We will never reduce our rate of incarceration and its first cousin, failure in school, until such rights are respected by our government.

Denying care to the less well-off among us does nothing but lay the groundwork for millions of children to grow up with hosts of problems. The long-term costs to government far outstrip any short-term savings achieved through denial of basic life support to poorer children. For these reasons, the Healthy Families low-income health-insurance program needs to be continued and, when the economy improves, expanded to prior levels of service.

In response to the governor’s May 2008 budget revision, the California League of Women Voters had this to say: “Our legislators and our governor need to find real solutions that don’t jeopardize the education of our children, health care for the sick and elderly, or the environment.” I could not agree more. To this list, I would add to care for the health and well-being of all our children and our citizens with severe disabilities.