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Legislative leaders condemn governor's budget cuts [Updated]

July 28, 2009 |  5:28 pm

The Democratic leaders of California's Legislature today protested Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's line-item veto of nearly $500 million in budget cuts beyond what the Legislature passed last week. Here are their statements.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D- Los Angeles):

“It’s a shame Gov. Schwarzenegger is so eager to tear down the safety net that he appears willing to break the law to do it. I am asking legislative counsel for a definitive opinion on the legality of the governor’s actions. The cuts the governor made today will have catastrophic effects on children, domestic abuse victims and seniors. The cuts the governor made today have broken the lifeline to the state’s most vulnerable and under-served. We sent the governor budget solutions that solved the deficit. He knows that. He knows we pledged to work with him on building up the reserve in August. He knows all that and still chose to take punitive measures against children and AIDS patients. It wasn’t too long ago when a 24-year-old woman born with HIV pleaded with legislators not to adopt the governor’s proposal to eliminate the program that provides the drugs that keep her alive. It wasn’t too long ago when a disabled woman, needing both the assistance of a wheelchair and oxygen, pleaded to stay out of a nursing facility in the event her in-home assistance would be eliminated by the governor.
“Throughout the past several months, Democrats in the Legislature worked to spare these vital services from elimination. The governor’s actions today have not just caused harm; his actions today put lives in jeopardy. He is cutting funding for the Black Infant Health Program at a time when African American babies have a mortality rate three times higher than white babies. The governor is choosing to make devastating cuts to child welfare services, leaving children and foster kids vulnerable. Earlier in the budget process, the governor threatened to veto bills that charged oil companies the same fair share severance tax they pay in other states and to levy tobacco products for the harm they inflict on the healthcare system and the state’s general fund. Had the governor not stood up for big oil and big tobacco, these devastating cuts also could have been avoided.
“The governor said he wanted to take on waste, fraud and abuse, but that appears to have meant taking on victims of domestic abuse. That’s shameful, but not totally unexpected from an administration that has been historically hostile to safety net programs. His Republican colleagues in the Legislature blew up their deal and the governor takes it out on the sick, the young, the elderly and battered women—all cuts he has been dying to make since his May budget revisions. For our part, my colleagues and I will move forward to restore any of these unnecessary cuts that are found to be legal and build a responsible reserve to accompany the full deficit solution we sent the governor last week.
“I do also have to say this kind of game-playing by the governor doesn’t bode well for success in terms of water, corrections, pensions or any of the other items the he is looking to in order to build some kind of real legacy. He and his staff may be lighting cigars to celebrate these cuts, but they should also be concerned about the devastating harm they are causing—and about burning their bridges.”

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento):

“We will fight to restore every dollar of additional cuts to health and human services. The Senate held the line and passed a budget revision package with a sufficient reserve that met the governor’s test.
"We question whether the majority of these vetoes are legal. 
"The governor has the right to blue-pencil an appropriation. The funding levels identified in the budget revision in many cases are not new appropriations.
"This is not the last word.”

[Updated 5:32]

The Senate approved the entire budget deal that the leaders struck with Schwarzenegger last week. But the Assembly rejected two provisions worth $1.1 billion.

In response to Bass' statement Tuesday, Schwarzenegger’s aides said she and the Assembly had forced the governor's hand.
“The governor understands how difficult these cuts are,” said his spokesman, Aaron McLear. “But because the speaker sent him an unbalanced budget, he had no choice but to make these cuts.”

--Times Sacramento bureau