By Solange Jacobs
Public employees represented by SEIU Local 2028 this week launched an advocacy website urging our decision makers to find a better approach to balancing the budget. The website contends that the budget disproportionately affects lower income groups and those most dependent on the services.
The site - which can be found at http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/SOS - includes a comprehensive overview of the budget deficit, and allows respondents to send a letter to Governor Davis and their representatives in the State Senate and the State Assembly.
With a $1.1 billion reduction in funding to counties and $7.6 billion in proposed cuts, public employees will be the first to feel the brunt of the proposed cuts. According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, approximately 5000 full time positions may be eliminated statewide. Medi-Cal will experience the most significant losses, with almost 2000 layoffs.
“Medi-Cal is always delayed. Some clients wait up to 8 weeks for eyeglasses,” says Kathy Griffee, a public health nurse in the Registered Nurses bargaining unit. Griffee says the cuts result in layoffs, increased wait times, and excessive paperwork that only “hurt the people who need the services most.”
Some employees fear the possibility of being laid off, but most are concerned about the impact on their communities.
“The amount of work doesn’t change just because you lay people off and announce hiring freezes,” explains Joe Molina, a case manager in the Public Services bargaining unit. “Instead, our caseloads increase and we have more clients to see, which means we can’t possibly provide the same level of service,” says Molina.
Gov. Davis’ proposal to reduce funding for the administration of State programs without lifting the obligation for counties to administer the programs means both providers and consumers of services will suffer.
“The governor’s plan to raise revenues to reduce cuts is good, but it’s not enough,” says Mary Grillo, executive director of a union representing public employees. “We support temporarily reinstating top tax brackets on upper incomes so that everyone shares the burden. Otherwise, poor people are disproportionately affected,” she explains.
Sen. John Burton (D-San Francisco) is championing this position with SB1255. Democrats supporting him say the bill will reverse some deep cuts in health care programs for the poor and generally reduce the impact of the deficit on local communities.
Moreover, this temporary increase will affect only 2 percent of California’s population. Of those affected, the top 1 percent with annual salaries averaging over $1.3 million will carry 95 percent of the increase. Both former Governors Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson adopted such measures during recessions to bridge budget deficits.
Raising revenues ensures public services continue unencumbered by staff layoffs and program reductions. With more revenues flowing into the State, it may not be necessary to reduce the number of lifeguards at the beach this summer, or close down hospitals and emergency facilities, or reduce hours at our state parks.
Let’s take action today to protect our essential public programs. Visit http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/SOS and tell the governor to Save Our Services