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Let the budget wars begin. Again.

Advocates for the elderly, disabled, poor and others are howling about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s May Budget Revision, which among other things would eliminate CalWORKS, the state’s welfare-to-work program, as well as most child care for the poor; slash mental-health spending by 60 percent; and freeze funding for schools, but not raise any taxes.

But business groups are fine with it. From John Kabateck, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)/California, on behalf of Californians Against Higher Taxes:

John Kabateck“We are thankful to Governor Schwarzenegger for making the tough decisions on this budget that will give California a fighting chance to pull out of this recession. By resisting calls for more tax increases, the Governor is leaving more money in the hands of those who create jobs and build businesses as well as the working families hit so hard by this downturn in the economy.

“This is the only way to reduce the state’s alarming unemployment rate and it is a healthy, robust economy that will provide the tax revenues to fund critical programs. We urge the Legislature to follow the Governor’s lead and help put California on the road to recovery.”

And from California Manufacturers & Technology Association President Jack Stewart:

Jack Stewart“Californians are out of work and worried about their long-term security while many manufacturers, especially small ones, are concerned about their long-term competitiveness. The Governor’s ‘no new tax increases’ announcement in his revised state budget proposal is a responsible step toward the state’s recovery.

“California’s budget focus must shift from extracting dollars from families and employers to putting people back to work in high wage jobs. Everyone wins when more Californians are working.”

Not so, contends California Budget Project Executive Director Jean Ross, whose nonpartisan nonprofit group advocates for fiscal reforms to benefit low and moderate income Californians:

Jean Ross“Largely because of the economic downturn, California once again faces a very difficult budget year. But the Governor’s May Revision is not the balanced, responsible approach called for at this critical time. It relies too heavily on proposed cuts, threatens the state’s economic recovery, and recklessly gambles with our future. It pulls the rug out from under families already struggling with double-digit unemployment rates and the worst economic crisis this country has seen since the Great Depression and would leave the state ill-prepared to compete in an ever more competitive global economy.

“The Governor’s proposals cut far past the muscle and into the bones of our state’s safety net – the health care, job placement, child care assistance, and other services Californians have turned to in greater numbers for help during the recent downturn. The Governor’s proposed cuts to public schools would further reduce the state’s commitment to education below that of the nation as a whole, a gap that is wider than at any point in the last 40 years.

“Instead, California needs a thoughtful and responsible budget, one that takes a balanced approach that includes more federal aid and prudent and carefully targeted cuts that preserve the core capacity of services. And in the same way that families unable to make ends meet work overtime or take an additional job to boost their incomes, California needs to bring in new revenues. Protecting our public services will ensure we can meet the needs of Californians now and pave the way for an economic recovery.”

A sampling of further back-and-forth, after the jump…

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“With the release of the May Revise, the Legislature now knows the exact scope of the deficit we must close, and while I cannot say what the exact solution will be, I can say that the process in finding that solution will be open, honest and transparent.

“The Assembly’s focus is on adopting a budget that promotes job creation and continues to fund the vital services California needs to ensure a strong and lasting economic recovery. The Assembly will not play politics with the budget – and we will specifically not engage in the politics of extraction. The Governor’s suggestions are clearly more reflective of a hyper-partisan political agenda than in finding real solutions to our problems. Putting Californians back to work is the fundamental priority for Californians, and we do not have the luxury of another bruising summer of ideological warfare.”

From Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, I-Irvine, a candidate vying for the GOP nomination next month to challenge U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in November:

“For decades the legislature has relied on borrowing and gimmicks to avoid the reform that California’s state government desperately needs. We’ve finally reached a point where shady accounting can no longer hide the dire condition of our state budget, which should be a wake-up call to those pushing the same tax-and-spend policies that led us here. This budget reflects decades of overspending on entitlement programs and gold-plated state worker benefits, a failure to address fraud in social services and a complete avoidance of responsibility for the long-term health of our state. The public employee unions and Democrat lawmakers howling about proposed cuts should look no farther than the nearest mirror for the cause of this crisis.”

From Michael Herald, legislative advocate for the Western Center on Law & Poverty:

“There is no question that California is facing one of the greatest challenges in its modern history. One could even compare it to a ship sinking in the sea except for one glaring difference. When the Captain of a sinking ship knows it is going down the first thing he instructs the crew is to get the women, the children, the infirmed into the lifeboats. But our captain, Governor Schwarzenegger, proposes to throw those who need help the most overboard first and save the lifeboats for the rich, the well-connected and the zealots of corporate tax breaks. It is beyond time that this Governor start considering the needs of all Californians and not just the well-heeled. His refusal to consider repealing even one corporate tax loophole shows how blinded he is by ideology and how badly he is doing his job as Governor.”

From Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman:

“Once again, Sacramento’s solution is a shell game, relying on money from the federal government that may never come and pushing the problem down the road. We are in this fiscal mess because of a failure of leadership to make tough choices, stop overspending and focus on what’s most important. We must take our state back from liberal Sacramento politicians who continually fail to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending. The next governor must be tough enough to stand up to the unions and the politicians who control our State Capitol. As governor, I will make job creation our number one priority and demand that state government lives within it means, just as California families do.”

From state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco:

“The Governor’s budget guarantees California’s recession will continue into the foreseeable future, as it will only create greater unemployment and further stifle our state’s ability to financially recover. The Governor was wrong when he proclaimed we had a spending problem and he is wrong to propose a budget that decimates programs for our children and our most vulnerable.

“When you propose to layoff teachers, close domestic violence shelters, and take away critical social services and healthcare, there is no doubt you have a revenue problem. I have opposed and will continue to oppose all budgets that are balanced on the backs of our students, elderly and working poor. We must clawback tax credits for corporations that abandon California, implement an oil severance tax like all other states, and ensure the wealthy pay their fair share.

“For too long, we have allowed Republicans to keep taxes off the table. Democrats need to stand strong and say draconian cuts to education and other critical services will not be tolerated.”

From Health Access California Executive Director Anthony Wright:

“In a tough budget situation, Governor Schwarzenegger’s revised budget represents the worst possible choice for California families, for our health system, and for our economy. At a time when millions are looking for relief, the Governor has proposed cuts that will deny medically necessary care, place greater financial strain on families, and turn back hundreds of millions of dollars in federal matching funds for our economy.”

“There are better choices for California—ones that balance cuts with revenues, preserves the health system we all rely on, and fosters our economic recovery. In contrast, Governor Schwarzenegger’s budget undermines our ability to create jobs and our health infrastructure– the foundation on which we need to take advantage of the new opportunities under health reform.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.