Liu meets with people hurt by budget stalemate

Christopher McWhorter is one face of the state budget crisis, as state Sen. Carol Liu (D-Glendale) learned Thursday.

McWhorter, 37, is bedridden because of muscular dystrophy. Sixteen hours a week, workers paid through the California Department of Health Services provide care and monitor the oxygen tanks and IV drip by his bed.

But the company that provides McWhorter's aides hasn't been paid since mid-August. The owner said her business is in jeopardy because of what has become a nearly three-month budget stalemate between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature.

A budget framework was announced Thursday afternoon as the governor and the four top legislative lawmakers met in Santa Monica, but a firm proposal wasn't expected to emerge until early next week.

"There hasn't been an outcry about the state not paying its bills," said Liu, who visited the McWhorter home, an adult school and a jobs program Thursday to highlight the human cost of the budget crisis. "This road trip gives me an opportunity to see how this is impacting everyday people."

During Liu's visit, McWhorter called the senator to his bedside. In a halting voice, he said, "I know you don't like Arnold," but lawmakers and the governor must work together to restore the state's finances.

"I hope you guys fix it soon," he said.

Felor Bahadori is president of Encino-based Annex Healthcare Providers Inc., which employs McWhorter's aides.

After the state stopped paying her claims, she said, banks turned down her requests for loans. The company is borrowing privately at a 30% interest rate to pay staff, she said. Bahadori may have to lay off 150 nurses if the budget crisis isn't resolved soon, she added.

"If I can't pay them, how is that going to help the budget?" Bahadori asked.

Earlier Thursday at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services office on San Fernando Road, Liu met with a group of 10 employers and workers benefiting from the CalWorks program, which is on the chopping block in Schwarzenegger's proposed budget.

CalWorks trains unemployed people and connects them to jobs and social services.

"The loss of CalWorks would be devastating to my company," Kenneth Autrey, of Keada Capital Investment Fund in Glendale, told Liu. "I would not be able to keep my doors open."

Bill Taylor, director of intergovernmental relations for the county Department of Public Social Services, said that if the program is eliminated, job seekers would likely go on general relief, adding $450 million to the county welfare tab.

Liu said the governor's insistence that the state's $19-billion budget gap be bridged without new taxes is "unconscionable."

"You cannot do it just with cuts," she said.

A spokesman for the governor's office, H.D. Palmer, said lawmakers are to blame for the stalemate, adding that the governor met his deadline for a revised May budget, only to watch the Legislature dither until the final day of the session on Aug. 31.

He said the state's finances deteriorated throughout the year, and the choices have only gotten tougher.

"It is regrettable that we are at this point. It did not have to be this way," Palmer said.

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