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October 30, 2012
By Michele Stillwell-Parvensky, Policy and Communications Associate, Children's Defense Fund-California
California's most vulnerable children have been disproportionately impacted by the economic downturn and devastating state budget cuts to education, health care, and social services. After billions of dollars of budget cuts to children over the past few years, California cannot afford to make additional cuts to investments in children and further damage an already tattered safety net.
California desperately needs new revenues in order to fully invest in our children – and that’s why voting yes on ballot initiatives that raise revenue – like Proposition 30, Proposition 38 and Proposition 39 – is so crucial for California children.
According to the California Budget Project, California has faced a structural deficit – a gap between the revenues raised by the state’s tax system and the cost of providing the current level of services – for more than a decade. In order to bridge the budget gap, lawmakers have made deep spending cuts, and the most vulnerable populations – children and the poor – have been the hardest hit.
A new fact sheet from the Children’s Defense Fund-California details the billions of dollars in budget cuts over the past five years to programs serving California’s children and families, including education, child care, health care and social safety net services. K-12 education was slashed by $7 billion between 2007 and 2010 – resulting in shorter school years, reductions in programs, and the loss of 32,000 teachers. Total government spending on child care and development has been reduced by nearly $1 billion over the past five years and one-quarter of child care and preschool slots for California children have been eliminated. Drastic budget cuts to health care programs serving children and the poor have undermined access to health coverage and care for millions of California children.
These cuts are shortsighted and will undermine our state’s future. Cutting cash assistance for families during a period of high unemployment means that more families will be at risk of homelessness. Reducing child care subsidies for families who have struggled to find work will result in parents not being able to work. This will ultimately cost the state more as families will be unable to move to self-sufficiency.
Children’s advocates have long supported a balanced approach to the budget that includes new revenues, rather than relying solely on spending cuts – on November 6, voters have a critical opportunity to raise needed revenue for children and families.
Proposition 30 temporarily increases personal income taxes for the highest earners and makes a small increase to the sales tax. Prop. 30 will raise about $6 billion a year until 2017 to fund public schools and other social services that are essential to California's children. If the measure does not pass, public schools and higher education will be hit with nearly $6 billion in additional mid-year cuts. Proposition 38 increases income taxes for 12 years on a sliding scale, with the wealthiest taxpayers paying more. Prop. 38 will raise about $10 billion each year to fund K-12 schools, early childhood, and debt reduction.
Both Proposition 30 and Proposition 38 would have a dramatically positive impact on California’s children by raising billions for California schools and reducing the pressure on the state budget in the immediate term, which will help avoid future cuts to key programs serving children and families.
It is important to note that if voters approve both Proposition 30 and Proposition 38, the State Constitution specifies that the provisions of the measure receiving more “yes” votes prevail. If both measures were to pass, what a great signal that would send to policymakers and other stakeholders about California voters’ willingness to support funding for education and state services!
Proposition 39, which would close a corporate tax loophole, would also generate additional revenue for California, some of which could be used to balance the budget and fund vital services for children.
California children have borne the brunt of state budget cuts in past years, and now is the time to stand up those that cannot vote by supporting reasonable tax increases to fund programs for California’s children, and avoid further budget cuts.
We need to reform our state budget processes so that critical programs benefiting California children and families have the necessary revenue and are not at the mercy of yearly budget battles and economic slumps. As a first step, California voters should vote yes on Propositions 30, 38 and 39.
Michele Stillwell-Parvensky is a Policy and Communications Associate in the Oakland office of the Children’s Defense Fund, a non-profit child advocacy organization that has worked relentlessly for nearly 40 years to ensure a level playing field for all children.