CA Catholic Conference Perspective on '11-'12 State Budget

New Budget for California Fiscal Crisis
Considering Principles of Social Teaching

By Edward E. “Ned” Dolejsi,

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SACRAMENTO, January 11, 2011  —  A somber, pragmatic and well-prepared Governor Brown addressed California’s $28 billion budget deficit, calling his proposal “draconian.” He laid out stark cuts that would total $12.5 billion (providing half of the needed solution) and requested that the Legislature place a proposition on the June ballot to keep the current tax rates (raised temporarily in 2009) for the next five years (which would provide the other half).  When asked what would happen if the voters rejected the tax increases he warned that all of the cuts would have to be doubled.

Governor Brown fully acknowledged that many who are poor and vulnerable would suffer as a result of his budget proposals, but he also pointed out that if the budget shortfall wasn’t addressed soon, the impact on them would be even greater.  He reminded us that over the last 10 years, we have relied on temporary remedies and unrealistic expectations which had exacerbated the problems of today—like the Economic Recovery bonds for operating expenses, the securitization of the tobacco settlement money, and rosy revenue projections.

The theme of Governor Brown’s approach was one of “courage and sacrifice”—but also one of subsidiarity.  Among his proposals were those for “realignment” which would shift some of the expense and much of the responsibility for such things as Court security and short-term incarceration back to counties.  The cuts he proposed included CalWORKs ($1.5 billion), (Medi-Cal ($1.7 billion) and the state’s share of SSI/SSP (support for the blind, disabled and elderly).  The state’s safety net will be frayed as support for those on SSI/SSP would be reduced to federal minimums.   He, however, proposed the UCs and the CSUs have their funds cut by $1 billion while keeping the funding for K-12 education and public safety at current levels.

The principles of common good, subsidiarity and the preferential option for the poor are among the most important in our Catholic teaching.  Applying them to a massive budget plan is a daunting task.  We are heartened by the Governor’s acknowledgment that difficult times lie ahead for all and his clear-eyed approach to the problem.

It is important to remember that after years of reduction in SSI/SSP and CalWORKs some of our most needy are not able to share in the sacrifice asked for by the Governor.  Whether the Legislature will respond to the Governor’s proposals by reviewing the cuts and by placing the requested tax proposition on the ballot and whether the voters will accept the “shared” sacrifice remains to be seen. If the cuts are perceived to be applied justly and the revenues raised fairly, we believe that the public will support the proposed budget solution.

Edward E. “Ned” Dolejsi, is Executive Director of the California Catholic Conference, the public policy office of the Catholic Bishops of California.

 



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