The Faces of California's Budget Cuts

Counties, residents prepare for major loss of funding

What does the plan cooked up by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other state leaders to balance the budget mean? For people who depend on state-funded services, it's not about abstract figures -- it's about the ways their lives will change for the worse.

As local governments figure out how to balance their state-slashed budgets, residents who rely on state-funded social services are also figuring out what to do next.

"It's got to be stopped," says Jim Gonsalves, a disabled resident of Alameda, Calif. who gets help from a home aide provided by a state-funded agency to get out of bed and dress himself. "The governor should be ashamed of himself." The budget proposal under consideration would cut $250 million from programs for the developmentally disabled like Gonsalves, who has cerebral palsy.

Alicia Alferez, a single mother  says she doesn't know how she would have taken care of her injured son Jacob yesterday without the insurance provided by the state's Healthy Families program. Healthy Families has already stopped enrolling new clients, and 55,000 children will be dropped from the program a month starting in November under the governor's budget proposal.

"I've been searching to see how much [private insurance] cost," says Alferez. "I can't afford it."

Local counties won't be in a position to do much for the likes of Alferez and Gonsalves. Although no official numbers will come out unless the budget proposal is passed by a vote on Thursday, many counties are making projections in preparation.

Sonoma County spokesman Jim Toomey says he worked with members of the board throughout the spring to come up with a plan to balance the county’s $24 million deficit. On June 24, the county cut almost $25 million from the budget and closed their deficit.

Less than a month later, "now we have to face it again,” he said.

Here's a look at how the state will balance its budget on the back of local governments in the Bay Area:

Alameda County

  • State will take $40 million from property taxes
  • State will take $35 million from the gas tax over 2 years
  • State will cut $9 million from redevelopment 

 Marin County

  • State will take $8 million-10 million from property taxes
  • State will take $5 million from gas tax
  • State will cut $7-8 million from health and human services
  • State will take $20 million overall

Sonoma County

  • Expects to loan the government $24 million total
  • State will cut $8.5 million from transportation
  • State will cut $16 million from general funds and social services

Napa County

  • State will cut $6 million in general fund
  • “Significant losses” in health and human service
  • Does not want to make an estimate of total money lost

Solano County

  • State will take $25 million from property taxes
  • State will take $5.3 million from gas taxes
  • State will cut Calworks by $5 million

Although amounts will vary in individual counties, each will face similar cuts. The state will take property and gas taxes and cut social services in most counties.

As money slips through their fingers, many county officials are angry the state is turning to them to correct the deficit. “Local government is experiencing (the) same problems as state, but we are taking measures to cut the budget,” said Dan Eilerman, budget manager of Marin County.

Alameda County administrator Susan Muranishi calls the governor's budget proposal a "hit to the taxpayers." Her county, like many others, is "already suffering." They just balanced a $180 milion deficit in June.

San Mateo County will have the greatest struggle. The county, which projects it will owe the state more than double most other counties in the area, already faces a $100 million deficit.

Yet counties that have been fiscally conservative will fare better than others. Marin and Napa County set money aside in anticipation of state cuts earlier this year. Representatives from Santa Clara, Contra Costa and San Francisco County have not returned calls.

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