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Analyst says Legislature should save welfare program

May 18, 2010 |  1:06 pm

The California Legislature’s nonpartisan budget analyst said the Legislature should scrap Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to eliminate CalWorks, the welfare program that assists 1.3 million Californians.

Schwarzenegger’s threat to cut the program was the key feature of his updated proposal to close what he calls the state’s $19.1-billion budget deficit.

“These programs are core pieces of the state’s safety net, and we therefore recommend that the Legislature reject these proposals,” the Legislative Analyst’s Office wrote in an assessment of Schwarzenegger’s plan released Tuesday morning.

The LAO noted that eliminating the program could mean forgoing $3.7 billion in federal matching funds. It would also mean that many families cut off from state funding would suddenly become eligible for local assistance, shifting about $1 billion in welfare costs to California county governments.

Schwarzenegger said he regretted the proposal, calling it a “terrible cut,” but added that two years of deep spending cuts in the wake of the global economic meltdown has left nowhere else for the budget ax to fall. “California no longer has low-hanging fruits,” Schwarzenegger said.

Schwarzenegger's plan, which insists on no new taxes, also called for deeper cuts in to state worker pay, cutting state funding of local mental health programs by 60% and freezing funding for local schools. The LAO report calls for some fee and tax increases to help close the gap.

-- Jack Dolan in Sacramento