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The predictable budget and what Democrats will do this year

I’m writing this on Tuesday, and I don’t need to wait until Governor Schwarzenegger releases his budget proposal later this week to know that he is likely set to dismantle and eliminate the In-Home Supportive Services program through cuts. IHSS is one of the most valuable, cost-effective programs in our state, but the Governor –without fail – tries to cut its funding every year.

It makes no sense, because IHSS provides home care for more than 450,000 low-income people with disabilities, the elderly, and blind.

It saves taxpayers millions of dollars every year by eliminating the need for costly long-term care institutions.

IHSS has been nationally praised as a model state program for helping the elderly and disabled live independently. In 2001, President Bush (yes, that President Bush) focused his “New Freedom Initiative” on expanding home-based, long-term care solutions, of which IHSS was a prime example.

I’m a veteran and, yes, I’m disabled. I’m able to live independently at home because of home care.  IHSS is my independence. I depend on my IHSS provider to perform daily tasks that most people take for granted.

I’m used to the Governor’s policies, which taken to their logical conclusion would force me to live in a nursing home. What I can’t get over are the Democratic lawmakers who support his budget cuts. This year, I hope those lawmakers make a stand.

Ever since he has been in office, the governor has targeted IHSS for cuts. Last year he proposed throwing more than 400,000 elderly, blind and disabled Californians out of the IHSS program. Just last month he threatened to eliminate the program entirely.

Unfortunately, too many Democrats stood by last year while the governor and his Republican allies cut IHSS and branded the people it serves as common criminals. Last July, for example, 20 Democratic State Senators and 45 Democratic Assembly Members voted YES to eliminate or drastically reduce services for more than 100,000 IHSS recipients.

The attitude toward IHSS by too many lawmakers is to decide the program’s funding future with a coin toss: heads, the Governor wins; tails, we lose. This ambivalence toward a program that actually saves taxpayers money (compared to more costly institutional alternatives) is unacceptable.

So far, we have had to rely on the courts to stop these illegal, immoral, and penny-wise- pound-foolish cuts designed to weaken and destroy the IHSS program.

This year, I hope Democrats and Republicans alike stand up for the vulnerable California consumers of IHSS, their families and the workers who provide their much-needed care. This need not be a partisan issue. All elected officials should do the morally right thing and keep home care available to people like me. Without IHSS, I will end up destitute in an institution.

IHSS is a program where the Federal government matches the state’s commitment and we’re walking away from millions of dollars in funding by cutting the program into non-existence. Local and regional governments are left holding the bag. This is exactly the type of short-sighted budget process that put California in this fiscal crisis to begin with.

I recognize the dire fiscal situation of the California state budget, but it is inexcusable for Democrats in the legislature to sacrifice the health and welfare of seniors and people with disabilities and their caregivers by cutting the IHSS program.

I don’t need to see his spending plan to know that Governor Schwarzenegger will again propose cutting millions of dollars in home care services for low-income elderly, blind or disabled consumers who depend on vital state programs.

What I don’t know is how Democrats will respond. I hope their response is much different than what they did last year.


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