In releasing his revised budget Wednesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed deeper cuts to health care and welfare programs for the poor even as his administration calculated that the projected demand for government assistance is growing.
The Republican governor proposed $627 million more in cuts to health and human services, making it harder for poor families to qualify for welfare and health coverage.
"I know this is going to be very difficult ... this is why I had a hard time to make those cuts," Schwarzenegger said. "But the absolute bottom line is we cannot spend money that we do not have."
Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, call the plan "a budget beneath a governor of this great state."
"It's telling our citizens: This is it. Our best years are behind us," said in a statement. "Under this plan, schools will lay off teachers and increase class sizes, and we will abandon children and the elderly. It's shameful."
Under the state's health care program for the poor, known as Medi-Cal, the governor proposes saving $42 million by requiring undocumented immigrants to meet a monthly eligibility requirement for emergency services.
Newly qualified immigrants and some permanent resident immigrants would see their benefits cut to the same level as undocumented immigrants, limiting care to emergency services, pregnancy-related services, long-term care in a nursing facility and breast and cervical cancer treatment. The move would save the state an estimated $86.7 million a year.
The governor also proposes limiting Medi-Cal eligibility to families earning 61 percent of the federal poverty level in which the principal wage earner works less than 100 hours a month.
Under Schwarzenegger's plan, supplemental income for seniors and the disabled would neither receive a cost-of-living increase from the federal government or the state. Currently the state serves roughly 1.3 million seniors, blind and disabled under this type of Social Security program.
Rather than passing scheduled increased federal assistance to the Social Security Income/State Supplemental Payment program, the state will absorb the savings.
Families receiving welfare assistance under the CalWORKS program also would not receive cost-of-living raises under the governor's proposal.
The governor and Legislature have already approved a 10 percent cut to pay doctors, hospitals and health care providers for taking care of the poor. Advocates have filed suit seeking to block the cuts from being implemented in July.
The governor took the opportunity to press for health care reform. According to the administration's report, "Without comprehensive health care reform that infuses the health care system with additional, stable sources of funding, these services will unfortunately continue to be significantly impacted by California's broken and volatile budget system."