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California's Budget crisis: Huge cuts spark workers' anger
CALIFORNIA'S STATE budget has an enormous $26 billion shortfall. To close it, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken a lesson from his silver screen days to "terminate" the state's welfare programmes.
Genevieve Morse, Classified Staff Union, Massachusetts Teachers Association (personal capacity)
He is cutting billions from education and ending a healthcare programme for children from poor families, among a number of other cuts. These cuts are estimated to amount to about $16 billion.
The collapse of the US housing market had a huge impact on the current budget crisis in California. Houses in the state were some of the highest-priced in the country. Working people were spending the majority of their paycheques on having a roof over their heads and on huge sales taxes. When the crisis hit, there was a dramatic decline in state revenue.
The cuts in healthcare could result in more than 1.9 million Californians losing access to health coverage. The current budget proposal would reduce state funding for the Medi-Cal programme by a billion dollars. Medi-Cal provides hundreds of thousands of children, working parents, the elderly, and people with disabilities access to no-cost healthcare.
Funding for schools will be slashed and almost 18,000 teachers in California are looking at possible layoffs. Some inner-city middle and high schools could lose up to 40% of their teachers.
The budget cuts would also drastically reduce funding for higher education by $335 million. These cuts would effectively phase out the Cal-Grant college aid programme, which provides thousands of students with money for tuition.
There has been resistance to the budget cuts. In May, teachers in Los Angeles called in sick and hundreds of high school students walked out of classrooms to protest the budget cutbacks.
According to the LA Times, about 700 more teachers than usual called in sick in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which happened days after a judge ordered the teachers' union to call off a planned one-day strike. About 50 teachers and union leaders also staged a sit-in in the middle of the street and refused to move to protest the layoffs.
Students from various high schools in Los Angeles, including 500 students at Garfield High School in East LA, walked out of classes and held sit-ins in support of teachers. At Jordan High School in South LA, about 200 students gathered in solidarity with teachers.
Protests by LA teachers and students are a first step to ending the attacks on public services. Other unions like the California Nurses Association have been demonstrating against cuts and campaigning for a single payer universal health care system.
The unions, whose members provide crucial public services, need to provide a lead for mass demonstrations across the state to stop layoffs and cuts in healthcare and education.
The government has spent trillions of dollars on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and for the bailout of Wall Street and big business. We need to build a mass movement that challenges corporate rule and breaks away from the Democrats and Republicans, to establish an independent political party that represents the interests of workers.
In The Socialist 29 July 2009:
War and occupation
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party review
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party news and analysis