Arnold's budget casts most vulnerable as The Expendables


As California’s Budget Conference Committee moves forward with negotiations for the 2010 budget, Assembly member Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) is promoting her movie, “Faces Behind the Governor’s Cuts,” to different Bay Area venues in an effort to send a message to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that his proposed cuts on services ignore the needs of the poor, parents who use child care facilities, and the elderly.

Skinner had her first screening of the movie just days after the blockbuster premiere of “The Expendables,” which includes a Schwarzenegger cameo. Yet instead of high packed action featuring a slew of legendary actions stars, Skinner presents a one minute short featuring interviews with home care workers, a single mother, a teacher, and an elder day care provider – all of whom would be severely impacted by the Schwarzenegger’s budget proposals.

The Budget Conference Committee released its balanced budget on August 4, rejecting Schwarzenegger’s cuts on jobs, senior care, and closure of child care centers – exactly the issues that the stars of Skinner’s film address. The committee suggested ways of raising revenue in lieu of cuts on vital services, such as closing the oil drilling loophole and delaying new corporate tax breaks. Despite the Committee settling on a budget with $14 billion in spending reductions and $4 billion in new revenue, Schwarzenegger still wants more cuts.

Yet Skinner says that Schwarzenegger’s plan would cost more than 430,000 private sector, local government and school jobs. The committee’s budget protects these jobs and creates thousands of new jobs from a $300 million private sector jobs fund.

“Unemployment is not the path to economic recovery,” Skinner told the Guardian. “There’s a way to craft a budget that protects people and jobs and it’s going to require a little revenue. There’s no way to do an all cuts budget – at this point in time – that doesn’t bring harm.”

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear didn’t see Skinner’s movie, but responded to Skinner’s concerns, telling us, “We understand Assemblywoman Skinner supports a massive tax increase to protect public employee pensions and the status quo for unions. We simply disagree.”

But looking beyond tensions between Schwarzenegger’s camp and the budget committee are the people these budget decisions affect – parents who work full time and use state-subsidized care for their children and the in-home attendants who the elderly rely on for care.

Daniel McGrath is an in-home supportive services (IHSS) caregiver who takes regular trips to Sacramento to speak out about the issue. “Life and death should never be on the table,” McGrath told us. “These disabled, elderly, and sick community members – our grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins – are the most vulnerable in our society and the fact that they have to fight for themselves is ridiculous.”

McGrath accompanies his clients, Mark Beckwith, to Sacramento despite a health condition that only allows Beckwith to move his fingers. Beckwith comes to Sacramento to send the message that “the IHSS program saves the state so much money. In institutions like nursing homes, it costs five times as more.”

In addition to cuts to elderly care, Schwarzenegger’s budget plan cuts eliminates child care programs – a blow to parents who work full time and cannot afford to pay for market rate child care and will have no choice but to quit their jobs to take care of their children full time.

Michelle Alvarez, an administrative assistant at UC Berkeley, said in a written statement, “I don't think my family would have been able to survive with out the help of BUSD preschools and after school programs. The state childcare has allowed me to have a stable job here at UC Berkeley for the past 8 years. Without the state childcare, it would be hard for not just my family, but other low income families to keep our jobs or go to school and care for our kids.”

As the budget committee and Schwarzenegger continue to duke out their differences, the fate of these people lingers in the distance. But Skinner poses a question for Schwarzenegger to think about: “For the governor, it appears that the numbers math is easy, but what about the human math – the impact on people, their livelihood, their jobs, and the ability to live independently?”

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