Placer residents concerned how deeply state will cut services

California budget crisis
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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The state budget deficit continues to deepen and so do the proposals to cut services that will have an impact in Placer County. On Tuesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he’ll be seeking $5.5 billion more in cuts to shore up a larger budget shortfall between now and June 2010. The state is now facing a $24.3 billion deficit. Another $3 billion in budget-balancing proposals will be announced Friday by the governor. Schwarzenegger’s announcement included a proposal to dismantle a welfare-to-work program serving more than 500,000 families and doing away with Healthy Families, which covers medical bills for 930,000 children and teenagers. No figures were immediately available on how many families and children would be affected in Placer County. Total savings would be $1.4 billion for the state. But it would also mean refusing $4.2 billion in federal funding for Healthy Families and CalWorks. The loss of the two programs would reshape both the state’s safety net of social services programs but also cut deep into Placer County’s efforts to aid its poorest residents. The governor and the Legislature have until the end of June to adopt a budget but discussions have extended into September when agreement couldn’t be reached on what to save and what to cut. For Placer County residents caught in the middle and unsure of what social services will be available to them and their children during hard economic times, Schwarzenegger’s plan was both frustrating and vexing. Thomas Weed, a construction worker, has two daughters and no job. No longer living with the girls’s mother, he was waiting outside county offices in North Auburn while she checked on medical services available to them. “I don’t know what I can do about it – it seems so big,” Weed said, about the state’s financial problems. “”I just love my kids and if they get sick I’ll take them to a hospital. Hopefully, the programs that he’s thinking of keeping are worthwhile.” Auburn’s Michelle Sanchez said the cuts need to be prioritized better. She said her situation was “day to day” with no work at the moment. “They need to take a pay cut,” Sanchez said of state decision-makers. “I think it’s terrible. I don’t think it’s right.” Placer County supervisors adopted their interim budget Tuesday. But it was approved before the governor’s new round of budget proposals. Financial analysts from the CEO’s office told supervisors that the county’s budget will be adjusted as state-level decisions are made. It needs to be adopted by Oct. 2. The Health & Human Services Department, which administers the Healthy Families and CalWorks programs, is anticipating an increase in its budget from $148 million to $154 million. It’s one of the largest departments in the county, with 822 allocated positions – a reduction of 56 from a year earlier. Of the 822 positions, 763 were funded and 55 left vacant for the balance of the 2008-09 fiscal year to balance the budget and avoid layoffs. The county budget report says the department continues to make operational and staffing adjustments during a time of diminishing revenues and increased demand for services due to the struggling local, state and national economies. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at