The cuts Mr. Schwarzenegger has proposed to make up the difference, if enacted by the Legislature, would turn California into a place that in some ways would be unrecognizable in modern America: poor children would have no health insurance, prisoners would be released by the thousands and state parks would be closed.
Nearly all of the billions of dollars in cuts the administration has proposed would affect programs for poor Californians, although prisons and schools would take hits, as well.
“Government doesn’t provide services to rich people,” Mike Genest, the state’s finance director, said on a conference call with reporters on Friday. “It doesn’t even really provide services to the middle class.” He added: “You have to cut where the money is.”
In less than two weeks, the administration has gone from warning residents that a vote against the budget measures would send the state — some $24 billion in the red — into utter turmoil to sanguine acceptance that “the people have spoken” and that the government must move on.
It gets worse.
These proposals, as well as those that would make cuts to state parks, the prison system and other state agencies, are winding their way through Sacramento now, where they will be voted on by committees and eventually the full Legislature.
If lawmakers sign off on closing the health insurance program for children whose families make too much to qualify for Medicaid, California would be the first state in the nation to close the popular program. Begun in 1997, the program, known as S-CHIP, reimburses states at a higher rate than for Medicaid to deliver health insurance to children and teenagers. With the cuts to Medicaid, the state would probably increase its number of uninsured people by nearly 2 million, the California Budget Project says.