California is experiencing its worst budget crisis in its history. Unemployment is expected to remain above 10% through 2012, and even for those working, hourly wages for low-wage workers have dropped and the median household income fell by more than $2,000 between 2006 and 2008.
In this crisis, more families are turning to government services for help. The number of California families receiving food stamps increased by more than 900,000 between October 2007 and October 2009, and the number of Californians enrolled in Medi-Cal rose more than 7% between May 2007 and May 2009.
At the same time, families are already suffering from cuts made in previous years. In 14 of the past 20 years, CalWORKS families, those who can least afford it, have had their state-mandated cost-of-living adjustments suspended or had the actual grant amount reduced. The purchasing power of low-income elderly and disabled SSI recipients has declined more than 22% since 1990. The state legislature approved grant cuts to these two programs in February, along with drastic cuts in Medi-Cal services, and the Governor proposed even more cuts in May, including the elimination of the Healthy Families and CalWORKs programs.
But California’s economic woes go deeper than the current recession, and are rooted in structural problems with the state’s budget and fiscal policies. California is the only state in the nation that requires a two-thirds vote to both approve a budget and raise revenue. And because it only takes a simple majority to pass cuts in revenues, corporate income taxes have declined over time as a share of corporate profits. As a result, it is next to impossible to adequately fund the services and infrastructure needs of the state.
Without a fair budget or immediate fiscal reform, we will continue to see limits on financial aid for college students, the elimination of dental treatment for seniors on Medi-Cal, pay cuts for service workers assisting the disabled, and real threats to funding for child care and food assistance. We must fight for economic justice.
1. Related calls to action: California Partnership
2. Member spotlight:
California Partnership is a statewide coalition spear-heading exciting campaigns to develop electoral power in low-income communities, give a voice to local communities in creating a more just state budget and building a movement for health care for everyone.
CCRC Members Who Advocate and/or Litigate for Economic Justice:
- American Civil Liberties Union (Northern California)
- American Civil Liberties Union (Southern California)
- ACLU San Diego
- Coalition for Economic Equity
- Housing Rights, Inc.
- Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area
- National Lawyers Guild, San Francisco Bay Area Chapter