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Governor’s Budget Asks $47.8 Billion : Major Cutbacks Affect Women and the Poor

Times Staff Writer

The state budget proposed Tuesday by Gov. George Deukmejian calls for major cutbacks in programs that serve the poor and women, including reductions of $485 million in health and welfare services and the elimination of all state funding for family planning.

In a move likely to touch off a battle with Democratic legislators, the Republican governor proposed withholding $242 million in cost-of-living increases for recipients of welfare and aid to the aged, blind and disabled. In addition, Deukmejian’s budget would cut spending by $63.9 million for in-home nursing care services provided to low-income elderly and disabled people.

Funds for Indigent Patients

Deukmejian also called for sharp reductions in funds for treating indigent patients but proposed making up that cutback with money from the new Proposition 99 cigarette tax and federal immigration funds.

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The governor’s budget proposal was immediately criticized by Democratic legislators, the California Medical Assn., Planned Parenthood and welfare rights advocates.

“I first am furious over his elimination of the office of family planning,” said Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles), chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Added Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles): “Obviously, we don’t agree with all the governor’s proposals, and we are going to come up with some counteroffers of our own.”

Norma Clevenger, executive director of Planned Parenthood, assailed the governor’s plan to eliminate the $36.2 million that the state spends to subsidize 173 family planning clinics around the state. The clinics provide birth-control services, AIDS testing and a variety of other health services--in some cases including abortion counseling.

“The loss of access to this kind of health care for women and men is tragic,” Clevenger said, adding that the governor’s proposal was “callous and cruel.”

At the same time, opponents of abortion praised Deukmejian’s proposal to eliminate state funds for family planning services.

“This is a goal we’ve been working toward for the last seven years,” said Jeannette Dreisbach, a spokeswoman for the California Pro-Life Medical Assn. “We are just thrilled the governor has decided to take appropriate action to protect women, especially young and minority women, from the program of the office of family planning.”

Warning to Legislature

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At a breakfast speech before a Sacramento civic group, Deukmejian threatened to cut a wide range of other services if the Legislature refuses to go along with his proposed budget.

“I don’t wish to have to make any of these reductions,” Deukmejian said, “but if the Legislature does not support such actions, I fear that the alternative will be much worse.”

Deukmejian said that if the Legislature blocks his proposed reductions, he would slash in other areas including local mental health programs, Alzheimer’s disease research, senior nutrition programs and alcohol and drug treatment programs.

By proposing that the state not grant a 4.79% cost-of-living increase for recipients of welfare and other state aid, Deukmejian revived a dispute that has flared up repeatedly ever since then-Gov. Ronald Reagan signed legislation granting an automatic cost-of-living increase annually to aid recipients.

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Under the law, refusal to grant the cost-of-living increases would require the approval of the Democratic-controlled Legislature. In past years, Democrats have been reluctant to deny the increase to a constituency that they perceive as their own: welfare mothers and low-income elderly and disabled people.

Specifically, Deukmejian proposed saving $137.6 million by eliminating the cost-of-living increase for the Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Program that provides aid to low-income elderly, disabled and blind people.

Under the program, an elderly or disabled individual receives $602 a month; the cost-of-living increase would have provided another $29 a month. Similarly under the program, an elderly or disabled couple receives $1,116 a month in aid; for such a couple, the cost-of living increase would have meant an additional $53 a month.

Deukmejian’s proposal also calls for saving $104.8 million by eliminating the cost-of-living increase for the state welfare program, known formally as Aid to Families With Dependent Children.

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For an average family of three on welfare--a mother with two children--the maximum grant is $663 a month. The cost-of-living increase would have provided the family with another $32 a month.

Deukmejian also proposed cutting $20 million from the state’s workfare program, which provides training and education to welfare recipients in an effort to help them find employment. The cutback would mean that many new welfare applicants would not be enrolled in the program, which is officially called Greater Avenues for Independence.

To save $63.9 million in the In-Home Supportive Services program, the governor proposed limiting the amount of services available to recipients and requiring recipients to obtain the lowest-cost services available.

Under the program, which is designed to keep elderly and disabled people out of nursing homes, recipients are given help with such tasks as cleaning, cooking and shopping. Under the governor’s plan, such services would be restricted to a statewide average of 70 hours a month. In addition, the hourly cost of service must not exceed the minimum wage.

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Deukmejian’s plan to revise the medically indigent program is sure to become controversial because it relies on the new Proposition 99 cigarette tax revenues, which generally had been designated for smoking-related programs.

The budget proposal calls for cutting $363.9 million from the state’s medically indigent program and then creating a new program to provide for “uncompensated care” that would serve the same caseload.

The new program would draw $258.9 million in funds from Proposition 99 revenues. Another $105 million would come from the federal government’s illegal alien amnesty program.

Plan Criticized

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Dr. Laurens White, president of the California Medical Assn. and a supporter of Proposition 99, criticized the governor’s plan: “We are fearful that the Administration’s budget planners are using the proceeds from the cigarette tax increase approved last November to offset cuts made in the state’s health programs. . . . When they approved the tax, voters believed they were increasing the amount of money available.”

Deukmejian’s budget also calls for cutting more than $100 million from the Medi-Cal program, including $40 million that would be saved by limiting the number of drugs available and reducing the amount the state would pay for pharmaceuticals.

Another $53 million in Medi-Cal savings would come from delaying payments to health providers--such as doctors and hospitals--at the end of the 1989-90 fiscal year. The governor would save an additional $9.5 million by not raising the threshold for Medi-Cal eligibility.

Deukmejian also proposed saving another $20 million by denying a cost-of-living increase to county health services throughout the state.

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HOW THE STATE BUDGET SPLITS THE REVENUE

Gov. George Deukmejian proposed a $47.8-billion budget Tuesday, about 6% more than the current $45-billion state budget. The spending plan goes to the Legislature, which must act on it by June 15. Public education received top priority, in part because of voter passage of Proposition 98, which guarantees public schools roughly 40% of the state’s general funds. To balance the budget and rebuild a $1-billion reserve, the governor ordered a freeze in welfare payments and cuts in several health programs.

Education (K-12)

$15,053 / 31.5%

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Health and Welfare

$12,439 / 26%

Higher Education

$5,817 / 12.2%

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Local Government

$2,766 / 5.8%

Business, Transportation and Housing

$2,649 / 5.5%

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Other

$2,400 / 5%

Youth and Adult Corrections Agency

$2,360 / 5%

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Selected Bonds

$1,651 / 3.5%

Resources

$1,193 / 2.5%

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Tax Relief

$893 / 1.9%

State and Consumer Services

$533 / 1.1%

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in millions of dollars; percentages rounded

Source: State Dept. of Finance


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