SEIU: Budget cap represents short-term thinking, long-term pain

Every morning, over 700,000 SEIU members rise and go to work providing the essential services that are such an important part of making California the great and leading state that it is. We provide care to the elderly, work to save lives in emergency rooms throughout the state, help the unemployed find jobs and learn new skills, help connect struggling families to the services they need to survive, and help children learn and thrive.

 As the people on the frontlines of providing care, we have been vocal about the effects of the budget deal that has emerged this year. We believe that the deal that was arrived at sacrifices our state’s future and will cripple our ability to provide the care and services Californians need.

 One of the most troubling aspects of the budget deal to us is the budget cap, which promises to make the cuts permanent by making it virtually impossible to restore them in better times. For SEIU members that translates into year after year of higher caseloads for social workers who help children endangered by neglect or abuse; ongoing cuts to healthcare for families struggling with unemployment or low-wage work; a future of shrinking support for families who have children with autism or cerebral palsy; ongoing cuts to hundreds of state services from parks to oversight of hospitals and nursing homes, and ongoing cuts to home care, higher education, K-12 schools, and other vital public services.

 We know that we are not alone in our concerns. In fact, Californians do not support the inevitable result of a budget cap – each of these cuts is deeply unpopular; yet legislators have already voted for the cap without a single hearing on the cap’s effects, without explaining its effects to their constituents, and without asking for detailed analysis from the Controller, the Treasurer, or independent outside experts.

 This is not the way such a serious measure should have been considered or passed. It reflects poorly on the Legislature as a deliberative and transparent body.

 In order to achieve the still elusive deal this year, with its temporary increase in revenues, legislators have agreed on a cap that, if approved by the voters:

–Will severely limit the resources available to support public services.

–Ties the ability to spend future revenues to a baseline established during one of the, if not the, worst budget crisis in the state’s history.

–Makes it virtually impossible to restore the cuts in better times.

–Would enable the Governor to make unilateral cuts without legislative approval.

 We expected our legislators to work together and solve our problems. Instead, when they finally worked together, they may end up giving us a cap that will make our problems worse.

 The California Dream is still alive, but it is threatened by this budget deal and by our state’s budget process. It’s a dream of good schools, good infrastructure, and wide open doors for quality higher education. It’s a dream of opportunity and dignity: a dream of a state where hard work means that families can live a good life and provide their children the tools of success. A dream of a society where we care for those who need help. A state that creates innovative and cost effective programs to provide independence and support for frail seniors and for children and adults with physical, mental, and developmental disabilities.  

 SEIU members are an integral part of the California Dream, and we have no intention of allowing any politicians – of either party – to destroy our state and send the California Dream packing.

 That’s why we intend to fix our broken budget process by changing the rules of the game.

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