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Who Would Arnold De-Fund?

by: David Dayen

Sat Aug 25, 2007 at 08:02:34 AM PDT

OK, time for a little role-play.  You're the post-partisan governor of a large state.  The state budget comes into your hands with cuts almost to the bone, but you promised an additional $700 million and just don't know what to do.  Who's going to get the shaft?

Now ask yourself this...

Who doesn't vote?

Give me a sec...

I know!  Mentally ill homeless people!

The Governor used his line item veto to cut the entire funding nearly $55 million for the AB 2034 housing program that serves over 4,700 adults with severe mental health needs, all of whom were homeless and frequently hospitalized or incarcerated before getting into the program. The Governor said in his veto message deleting the funding that:

"...while I support the goals of the program, this reduction is necessary to limit program expansions and to help bring ongoing expenditures in line with existing resources. To the extent counties find this program beneficial and cost-effective, it can be restructured to meet the needs of each county's homeless population using other county funding sources, such as federal funds, realignment funds, or Proposition 63 funds. I am reducing Schedule (6) to eliminate the $12,000,000 legislative augmentation for the 5 percent rate restoration for mental health managed care. This technical veto is consistent with the legislative action taken in [Budget] Item 4440-103-0001."

Mental health advocates say that the immediate effect of the funding cut by the Governor could result in thousands of those people in the program being forced back on the streets at risk of hospitalization and incarceration... The actual outcome of these programs depend on response of local mental health agencies and the Department of Mental Health - but advocates say the cut seeks to supplant funding from the landmark Proposition 63 Mental Health Services Act - funding that was meant they say only for new community based programs - and specifically not meant to fund existing programs.

This is a bait and switch we've seen before by budgetary bean counters.  Dedicated funding that's supposed to go ON TOP of budget outlays ends up being the only funding source.  So the will of the voters is completely overturned; instead of supplementary mental health funding, Prop. 63 becomes the sole funding.

There were some other cuts, including $6.3 million that would have gone toward the California Discount Prescription Drug Program.  But the mentally ill homeless cuts were the most drastic.  And it once again shows that those with the softest voice end up getting hit the hardest.

David Dayen :: Who Would Arnold De-Fund?
UPDATE: State Senator Darrell Steinberg, who authored AB 2034, the bill whose funding was eliminated by the Governor's budget cut, is shrill.

"The program provides over 4,500 homeless Californians living with mental illness with permanent housing, where they can regularly receive medical and psychiatric treatment and job counseling. The program has been wildly successful according to the Department of Mental Health, reducing the number of days spent homeless by 67 percent, increasing the number of days working full-time by 65 percent, and reducing the number of days incarcerated by 72 percent.

"This is a program that works, that saves the state money in incarceration costs and that humanely treats a population that usually gets short shrift in Sacramento," Steinberg said. "I'm extremely disappointed that the Governor used his veto power in a way that punishes the least among us."

"Steinberg noted that the Governor chose to keep in the budget a $45 million tax break for yacht, private plane and recreational vehicle owners. Under the tax plan requested by Republican lawmakers, luxury vehicle owners can avoid paying sales taxes on purchases if they keep the vehicles out of California for just 90 days after purchase. According to the Legislative Analyst's Office, opening the loophole costs Californians $45 million a year.

"That's the state of California's budget: $45 million in tax relief for yacht owners will stay while $55 million to save thousands of homeless mentally ill is being sacrificed," Steinberg said. "It's wrong morally. It's wrong economically."

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You've hit the nail on the head (0.00 / 0)
The real solution to a lot of problems is getting more people to the polls, since the people who get the short end of the stick are disproportionately those who do not vote.  Some of these folks can't vote--those who are not citizens but nevertheless live here--but many who can vote do not see the connection between this and how they are treated when budget cuts are made or legislation and regulations are made.

And the mentally ill homeless (0.00 / 0)
Aren't generally regular voters, many of them can't even read to know who to vote for. This is a disgusting political move.

Post-partisan my ass. Post-humanitarian is more like it.

I think?

[ Parent ]
gah (8.00 / 1)
this is literally sickening. I can feel my blood pressure rising as we speak.

I was afraid this would be one of his line item vetos. It's so wrong on so many levels. It doesn't even make economic sense. The only reason this could happen, is because they just don't give a damn, and don't see the homeless or the mentally ill as PEOPLE. I'd like to drag Arnold downtown, and make him look these people in the eye so he can personally tell them why they don't matter to him.

I really try not to overuse the word evil, but....

Unnecessary and unconscionable (0.00 / 0)
Although I was happy to see that the $20 million for high speed rail was not cut, it's not something I could get excited about yesterday as I read of this and other needless cuts. Cutting a successful mental health program so that the wealthy can get tax breaks on their yachts and private planes is disgusting.

You can check out any time you like but you can never leave

I am literally sickened. (0.00 / 0)
I honestly didn't think this kind of thing happened... anymore.  Throwing the mentally ill out on the street made Reagan famous; I didn't think you could do that anymore without suffering massive negative publicity of the kind that Arnold especially would find mortifying.  It didn't occur to me that one could cut funding for this sort of program -- mentally ill people who were already homeless and/or incarcerated -- and get away with it.  Arnold must know that the press won't give a shit, because he is allergic to bad press.  And the fact that the press won't give a shit, that nobody will care except a few goddamn activists and their blogger buddies... that amazes me.  I didn't know our political ecology was like that. 

And even given that 1) I assumed Arnold would incur consequences for such an act, and I was wrong, what about the fact that 2) this is a patently heartless and cruel thing to do?  That doesn't matter to him either?  I hope there are details somewhere that mitigate this (as there were with SCHIP), because I don't want to believe the things that are necessarily true about our political system if there aren't any such details.

I wonder why... (0.00 / 0)
the legislature didn't just agree to the following proposals:

*Eliminate vacant staff positions
*Tell those eligible for VA that they cannot get Medi-Cal instead
*Rescind Arnold's proposal of an at least $330 million increase in prison guards' salaries

Those 3 alone would save over $700 million

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