Tag Archives: calworks

Legislature Hopes to Save CalWorks Day Care Subsidies from Arnold’s Wrecking Ball

Sure, Arnold Schwarzenegger has left the Horseshoe, but that doesn’t mean that we can just forget about him or what he did to the state.  In this case, we’re talking about the child care subsidies for parents who have recently left welfare.  For this one, there at least seems to be a remedy that gets us through to the next budget. (hopefully)

Assembly Speaker John Pérez will announce today that state officials have found a way to save child care subsidies for 55,000 low-income families – a program that then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to eliminate last year.

The subsidies are available to parents who were formerly on cash assistance but now have jobs or are in school. Supporters had argued that eliminating the subsidies was shortsighted and could ultimately cost taxpayers more than keeping it, because many parents would quit their jobs and apply for welfare if they were unable to afford day care.

Under a plan Pérez will announce today, state officials will use $60 million in child care funds left from previous years to fund the subsidies through March. The program’s funding would be restored April 1 under Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal unveiled this week.(SF Chronicle)

Now, clearly this is a stopgap gimmick, but a necessary one.  We really cannot afford to let this program just die for three months.  If we are really attempting to get people off of welfare rolls and back in jobs, we can hardly pull the rug out on them so quickly.  There has to be an effort to transition off of being a full-time child care provider as a parent to a place where the parent can reasonably afford child care expenses.  We can’t say we want people to work while at the same time presenting a net loss in money coming into the household if they are working a low-wage job.

CalWorks has been a pretty successful welfare to work program, and that’s what the Right has been clamoring for.  But, when times get tough, better to squeeze the poor than the rich, right?

UPDATE: Just got the word that the effort worked. Find the full press release (with a timeline) over the flip.

Speaker Pérez: Child Care Effort Succeeds– Big Victory for Thousands of Working Families and Small Businesses

SACRAMENTO-Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) today announced that thanks to efforts by the Assembly, California’s local First 5 Commissions, and the Brown Administration, thousands of working parents in California will continue to receive the child care services that allow them to stay in their jobs and keep their families off welfare.

“With the stroke of his blue pencil last fall, former Governor Schwarzenegger forced thousands of working parents to face the choice of losing their jobs or letting their kids fend for themselves,” Pérez said. “Today, I am pleased to announce that we did not let that happen and that this program is in fact being restored and is included in Governor Brown’s budget. This is a big win for working parents and their children, and also for the thousands of small business child care providers who would have had to close their doors or lay off their employees.”

In December, Speaker Pérez introduced AB 1, the first bill introduced in the 2011-2012 session of the Assembly, to reverse Schwarzenegger’s veto and restore the Stage 3 Child Care services that enable parents to transition from welfare to work.  Speaking from the Assembly floor today, Pérez announced AB 1 would now be used as a vehicle if one is necessary to allocate existing transition funding until the budget is enacted and the program officially restored.

“Not only did Governor Brown hear us and restore Stage 3 Child Care in his budget this week, his administration is also actively working with us to identify existing funding that can be used to transition until the budget is enacted,” Pérez said. “As we move forward, should it be determined that any interim funding we identify requires authorizing legislation, I will make AB 1 available for that purpose.”

More than $40 million in bridge funding – including $6 million from cuts Speaker Pérez made to the Assembly’s own budget and additional funding he sought from the county First 5 commissions – helped buy time until Stage 3 Child Care services could be restored.  A judge’s stay of the elimination of the services also allowed time for Speaker Pérez and other advocates to successfully push for the program’s restoration.

“Of course, there are still difficult cuts proposed to all child care programs – and undoubtedly, the final budget will have to include some of the proposed reductions,” Pérez said. “But as painful as those cuts may be, they will still be far better than Governor Schwarzenegger’s wholesale elimination throwing 60,000 families out of the workforce or their children into harm’s way. This is a very positive sign we can work with this Governor to create jobs, put California’s fiscal house in order, and make sure every Californian can find opportunity and the chance to succeed.”


October 8, 2010-Governor Schwarzenegger blue-pencils Stage 3 Child Care funds eliminating services for 81,000 children in 60,000 families transitioning from welfare to work.

October 19, 2010- Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez pledges $6 million from part of his 15% cut to the Assembly operating budget and contacts state and county First 5 commissions asking for help in providing bridge funding until Stage 3 Child Care can be restored.  Local commissions take action throughout the next several weeks.

October 29, 2010-Alameda County judge issues stay in implementation of the cuts and orders November hearing.

November 5, 2010-Speaker Pérez announces more than $40 Million in bridge funding pledged so far.

November 17, 2010-Judge approves settlement keeping child care services available through end of year.

Dec 6, 2010- Speaker Pérez introduces AB 1 to reverse the veto and restore Stage 3 Child Care.

January 10, 2011-Governor Brown includes Stage 3 Child Care funding in his 2011-2012 budget proposal.

January 14, 2011-Speaker Pérez announces victory for working families and providers. Moves AB 1 to become authorizing vehicle if necessary for interim funding identified by Assembly and Brown Administration.

Website of Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez: www.asmdc.org/speaker  

LAO: Revenue Before the Most Painful Cuts

Mac Taylor has been generally to the right of the former Legislative Analyst, Elizabeth Hill.  Nonetheless, today Taylor says increase revenue before axing some of the most basic components of the safety net.

“Some of the most severe cuts proposed by the governor could be avoided by adopting selected revenue increases,” Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor said in a report analyzing the governor’s budget plan.

To retain safety net “core services for those most in need,” Taylor suggested the state consider cutting deeper into California’s university system, trial courts and public safety local assistance grants.

“We believe there there are opportunities for savings beyond those identified by the administration (in those areas),” his report said.

Rather than imposing a general tax increase, revenue could be generated by increasing fees, delaying scheduled tax reductions, changing tax-expenditure programs or by imposing targeted tax increases, Taylor’s report said.

Increasing alcohol taxes and permanently extending the higher vehicle license fee that was approved last year, as a temporary measure, are two examples of targeted tax hikes Taylor recommended. (SacBee)

Now, mind you, these aren’t the real revenue recommendations we need, but to be frank, this is a better deal than the Republicans are really prepared to go.  Many of these are majority vote measures, but the Legislature still needs the Governor’s approval for at least a few more months.

Eilimination of CalWORKS Puts the Lie to “Welfare Reform”

Back in the day, St. Ronald Reagan, used to talk a lot about welfare reform.  To him, everybody on welfare was making $150,000/year cheating the system.  That he couldn’t actually point to a real case was no matter. He simply knew it was the case. So, the best solution was to hack the system to pieces.

Reagan didn’t deal the big blow to the welfare system that he had really wanted, that was to be left to the “New Democrats.” He did find plenty of time to eliminate mental health care and toss thousands of veterans on to the street, so don’t you worry about St. Ronny.

But those who decided that the system needed to be exploded talked about the need to get the poor into jobs. Those lazy “welfare queens” needed to stop sitting at home with their children and go to work. That child care often costs more than their wages was no matter.  But, in a perfect world, we would be able to provide affordable Head Start style preschool programs to all. And, in the end, getting people into the workforce is generally a good thing if done properly.  We need to work to ensure that we don’t end up putting children into a situation where they have nobody to care for them and no food.

If these are your goals, then CalWORKS, California’s Welfare to Work program would be something worth doing, right?  CalWORKS helps out needy families who are living below the poverty line while requiring that the recipients work.  But, Arnold has once again slated CalWORKS for elimination, which would make California the only state in the nation without a welfare to work program.

What does it say if we so lightly consider tossing aside help for California’s working poor?  Are we really concerned about getting people into the workforce, or simply cutting the social safety net?

On another note, is there an argument that somehow the jobs situation would be better if we cut CalWorks while not increasing upper income taxes?  Money to CalWORKS recipients is spent, churning money through our economy.

But this isn’t really about what’s best for the state any more. We’re in the business of moving wealth upwards these days. We can’t let something as trivial as a child going to school hungry get in the way of that.

Where Will the Rioting Begin?

As California’s budget mess continues to worsen, and we seem headed inexorably towards depression levels of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, and hunger, I’ve been recalling the summer of 1992 when Los Angeles erupted into a multi-racial redistribution of wealth.

Have the Republicans really thought through the potential results of eliminating the minimal payments to 127,000 low income parents and children in San Bernardino County when the unemployment rate is already above 13%?

Or the anger among the friends and families of the 420,000 low income parents and children in Los Angeles County who receive minimal payments, education, and assistance with child care?

On a hot night in September, with the Santa Ana winds blowing, and a simmering pool of rage, it will only take a spark.

Cut me please

Cut my services please.  

I make a good living in California.  I pay tons of taxes.  Like my liberal friends (I am a moderate and think both parties have no credibility), my kids are not even permitted to step foot on a public school.  I get next to nothing from the state except crowded freeways, state parks that charge for parking, horrid emergency rooms, and the highway patrol.  the only useful thing for me is the UC system as i went there and hope my kids can go.  

So here is my offer.  Cut all of my services.  Close all the state parks immediately, i will suffer.  Pull the plug on the UCs, and if my kids want to go to college, they will work a job and borrow.  

But in return, i want some pain inflicted on welfare moms, on teachers, on the community colleges, on the schools, on the hospitals, etc.  

what is so unfair about all this.  

A Downpour of Opposition to Governor Schwarzenegger’s Budget Proposal at Oakland Forum

Cross-posted on the California Majority Report.

It was overcast and dreary in Oakland today, and the dark clouds spread to Lake Merritt United Methodist Church during a budget crisis forum sponsored by Assemblymembers Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Sandré Swanson (D-Oakland).

“I believe the drastic cuts proposed by the Governor would be devastating to the people I represent,” Hancock told the 100-person crowd. “The budget will define our values as a community.”

The budget as a statement of values was a theme repeated throughout the program. “We can have this conversation about numbers,” Swanson added. “But that kind of misses the point. This is really about values.”

Jean Ross, Executive Director of the California Budget Project, laid out what values are being put to the test in Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget:

  • Confronting education — a $4.825 billion cut to K-12 schooling. That’s a reduction of $786 per student;
  • Confronting health care — a $1.126 billion cut to Medi-Cal spending;
  • Confronting crucial social services for children and families — a $463 million cut to CalWORKs programs. The largest share of these savings would come from removing aid for 150,000 children in low-income households; and
  • Confronting crucial social services for the elderly and disabled — a $324 million cut to cost-of-living adjustments for cash assistance programs for low-income seniors and persons with disabilities in the SSI/SSP program.

To make matters worse, some of these cuts would take away federal matching funds. “What sense does that make?” Assemblymember Swanson pondered.

For more, including a discussion of the early release of prisoners, see over the flip…

As Assemblymember Hancock noted, California is the only state in the nation to both require a two-thirds vote in the legislature to raise taxes and grant the Governor line item veto authority. “This reminds me of the seven layers of Hercules,” Hancock said. “You have impossible barriers you need to cross before you get to the place you need to be, but if we don’t do that this year in California, we will find that this place is no longer the place it has been or we want it to be.”

Previous Schwarzenegger budgets in comparatively good economic times have relied on a combination of bonds, gimmicks, and already steep cuts. With a $14 billion budget shortfall this year, that will no longer be sufficient. Lenny Goldberg, Executive Director of the California Tax Reform Association, laid much of the blame on Governor Schwarzenegger’s revocation of the vehicle license fee and the Governor’s subsequent bonds to make up for lost revenue. Combined, these add up to $9 billion, nearly two-thirds of the budget deficit.

During previous deep red budget years, Republican governors Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson combined a mixture of tax and fee increases and spending cuts to balance the budget. But this year, legislative Republicans and even our so-called post-partisan Governor have vowed to oppose all new fees and taxes. “The rational conversation on the tax side has been completely cut out,” Goldberg lamented.

On the issue of convincing Republican legislators to act more rationally in regards to tax and fee matters, Hancock and Swanson played good cop, bad cop.

Hancock emphasized that there are some genuinely rational legislative Republicans, even if their voting records suggest otherwise. She told the crowd that she has had Republican legislators approach her and say, “I know a really good tax loophole that you should cut. Of course, I can’t actually vote for it.”

Swanson was a bit less concilitary on the subject. “I can be just as irrational,” Swanson quipped. “I will not make cuts to Prop 98. I will not make cuts to after-school programs.” If Republicans insist on holding firm on revenues, Swanson made clear, then it’s up to Democrats to do the same on the services we care most about so we can finally have a “fair and rational” debate and make a genuine compromise.

Karen Hemphill, a Berkeley Unified School District Board Member, gave the best summary of why Democrats care so much about preserving education funding. The Governor’s proposal would take away revenue equivalent to a month in school for every school district in the state. That’s $768 less per child. At stake aren’t just pencils, textbooks or dodge balls. Education is the most important investment a state makes, she emphasized. Lower performing schools lead to lower performing students. Lower performing students will make less money on average, increasing their reliance on state services and decreasing their contribution to the tax pool. Lower performing students are also at a greater risk for falling into a life of crime, which of course ups the costs associated with courts and incarceration. “I don’t think many of us thought this was what was meant by the Year of Education,” Ross joked.

Hemphill also informed the audience that the district expects to lay off most of its counselors if the Governor’s budget moves forward. But she warned that Berkeley Unified School District is actually in better shape than most schools in the state, because Berkeley voters recently approved a parcel tax to help fund school programs.

The discussion on education costs frequently returned to the question of local government solvency. Assemblymember Swanson noted that much of the Governor’s budget simply shifts responsibility to the local level as an unfunded mandate. “It doesn’t go away; it just passes responsibility,” he said.

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson gave a sobering breakdown of statewide city and county concerns. 50% of Oakland’s revenue comes from federal and state money, but this includes property tax revenue collected by the city and transferred to the state. And local governments’ access to local property tax revenue has been on the decline. Less than 25% of the county’s budget is discretionary.

Naturally, as on the state level, the services provided with discretionary funds disproportionately harm those most in need of help. If the Governor has his way, the services that will be cut include things like preventative health care, educational opportunities programs, job training, rehabilitation programs, prison deferral services, and the like. While the state may see a short-term savings by destroying these programs, Carson made a crucial point that is frequently lost in the blustering anti-tax rhetoric that frequently permeates in Sacramento and among the chattering class. Simply put, in the long term, these programs improve society and save the state money. Preventative health care stops illnesses before they become a huge financial burden. Programs to broaden educational opportunities and to provide job training help the children of poor Californians become part of the well-educated, higher tax-paying, more flexible middle-class. Drug and alcohol rehabilitation and prison deferment programs reduce imprisonment costs, help reform broken lives, and ultimately generate more tax revenue for the state. Schwarzenegger “clearly didn’t have an understanding of how his budget proposal would impact local communities,” Carson explained.

The Governor’s budget also includes a $372 million cut to the Department of Corrections, mostly through the early release of 20,000 inmates and a quickening of the parole process for another 20,000. While this proposal has received bipartisan condemnation, many progressives will be inclined to support this part of the Governor’s budget, because there are far too many non-violent offenders in prison who simply don’t belong there, and because our country’s incarceration system all too frequently creates hardened criminals where there once was a good chance at rehabilitation. But the panelists cautioned that early release alone is insufficient.

As Ross explained, “I know many of you probably think that’s a good idea, but the problem is those individuals would not have supportive services in the community to help them find housing, help them find jobs, and help them restart their lives in a positive way.”

“It is irresponsible to [release prisoners early] without some funds to help the counties manage,” Swanson cautioned.

“Many of those individuals we would like to have in our community,” added Carson. “But they don’t have the supportive services necessary to assist them.”  

But there is reason for cautious optimism on this issue. Hancock thinks we have a real chance to turn the budget lemon into public safety reform lemonade by including rehabilitation block grants for local governments in conjunction with early release. This would still save the state money and provides a realistic opportunity to permanently reduce the population in our state’s overburdened prisons.

Clearly, Governor Schwarzenegger wasn’t the room’s favorite person, but there was some praise for the Governor, sort of. While previous budgets have relied on “smoke and mirrors,” Ross gave the Governor credit for presenting a more or less honest portrayal of what the budget would look like without additional revenue. “This budget makes clear that California is facing a very serious challenge,” she said.

And there was some good news to report too. Assembly Bill 32, California’s landmark global warming bill co-authored by Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) and then-Assemblymember Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), is not particularly threatened by the Governor’s budget, because the California Air Resources Board has limited authority to raise fees without legislative approval. Indeed, the state’s budget wonks are looking into redirecting money from the general fund that Governor Schwarzenegger reserved for AB 32, since that money could also be generated via a CARB fee hike.

So where do we go from here? How do we insure that our values are reflected in California’s budget this year? Goldberg had some suggestions:

  • Tax oil producers. This would generate more than $1 billion yearly, and we are the only oil-producing state that doesn’t tax the oil producers;
  • Bring back the vehicle license fee;
  • Restore the top tax bracket that Governor Wilson abolished. This would generate $2 billion yearly, and those who faced the tax hike could even get a portion back in their federal tax returns;
  • Institute a tax on goods purchased on the Internet;
  • Find fees that can help relieve the general fund. Fees only require a majority vote, so they provide an opening for the Governor and legislative Democrats to increase state revenue without the support of legislative Republican obstructionists. He cited a carbon fee as one option;
  • Organize parents, teachers, and concerned citizens in Republican districts to fight against cuts to education. Schools in Republican districts tend to be even more vulnerable to state cuts to education, and it’s possible the pressure could sway some legislative Republicans to take a more nuanced perspective on taxes;
  • Get taxes on the ballot. While a legislature-approved tax initiative would also require a two-thirds vote, it is possible that enough Republicans could be persuaded to let the people decide their own financial fate; and
  • Support groups that wish to independently carry revenue-generating initiatives. Even if a tax hike initiative can’t clear the legislature, we should expect signature gathering to begin from concerned interest groups.

So those are some of our options. Where are we likely heading? Said Goldberg, “My guess is one way or another, we’re going to be fighting this out on the ballot.”