On politics in the Golden State

Category: Welfare

Analyst says Legislature should save welfare program

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

Whitman says Schwarzenegger welfare cut goes too far [Updated]

Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has made reforming state welfare programs a centerpiece of her campaign, but she said Monday that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to eliminate the state's main welfare program, known as CalWORKS, was too extreme.

"I would have reformed welfare as opposed to call for its entire elimination," Whitman said. "I would not eliminate CalWORKS entirely."

Whitman insisted that the state budget could be brought under control by targeting "waste, fraud and abuse" -- as well as making cuts to social services. That same troika of maladies has been featured prominently throughout the Schwarzenegger administration, though the state remains mired with a $19.1- billion deficit.

[Updated: 3:48 p.m.] Poizner spokeswoman Bettina Inclan said Poizner, too, disagrees with the governor's proposal to end CalWORKS. "“There is no question that we must reform the welfare system. Our analysis shows, however, that completely ending the CalWORKs program would be imprudent because the loss of federal funding resulting from termination of the program would be greater than any savings achieved," she said.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said in response to Whitman, "While we’re happy to have Ms. Whitman’s support in the governor’s fight for the elimination of waste in health and welfare programs, further cuts would require details that we have not seen her produce.”

Whitman embraced other parts of the governor's budget proposal, including Schwarzenegger's plan to reduce state worker salaries and contributions to state worker pensions.

-- Anthony York in Roseville


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