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?
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.
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."