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Lawmakers decry Arnold’s child-care veto

Lawmakers and child-care advocates held a news conference in Oakland this morning to decry Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Oct. 8 veto of $256 million in CalWORKs Stage 3 child care funds which would’ve provided services to working parents.

State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, had called the cuts “unnecessary, misguided, cruel and shortsighted” in a news release issued yesterday. “It will force millions of parents to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for their children. I can think of no action more destructive to our economy that forcing low-income workers to give up their jobs. That’s why we must overturn the Governor’s veto.”

Among those also at the news conference were state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell; Renee Sutton Herzfeld, executive director of Community Child Care Council (4C’s) of Alameda County; and state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro.

Corbett later Tuesday issued a statement saying she’s “disappointed that the Governor used a single pen stroke to take away funds that working families need. He slammed closed the door of opportunity for 60,000 families statewide, including 81,000 children.”

“Government should help people, not hurt them,” she added. “We fought to make sure the most draconian cuts proposed by the Governor did not become reality. Unfortunately, once again, the children of this state were targeted.”

Here’s what Herzfeld had to say last week about the governor’s veto:

My colleague, Katy Murphy, penned an article last week further describing the child-care cuts’ impact here in the East Bay.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear this afternoon questioned why, despite today’s news conference and the veto’s impending effects, I’m bothering to report about a veto that happened weeks ago – “We’re having a presser tomorrow to overturn Prohibition. Hope you can make it.” – and referred questions to state Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer.

(Asked if he really wanted to be so cavalier about a veto that will impact so many families, McLear responded by e-mail, “Sounds like you’re writing from a particular point of view — interesting reporting. Just making sure u know this story is weeks old.”)

Palmer said the governor vetoed $963 million in general-fund spending, including this child-care money, because lawmakers had sent him a budget with only $375 million in reserves, which he deemed too small given the state’s fiscal instability.

“Each of these vetoes involved trade-offs and some tough choices, and this veto clearly will present challenges for many,” Palmer said, although the budget does still include $1.7 billion in child-care for low-income Californians through other programs. “I do not and would not mean to suggest each family, each individual affected by this will have a vacant slot waiting for them – there are waiting lists, there are backlogs.”

Palmer also provided a primer explaining exactly what the “Stage 3 funds” are:

CalWORKs Stage 1, an entitlement program, is administered by the Department of Social Services through county welfare departments and provides child care services to individuals when they enter the CalWORKs program. It is funded with a combination of non-Proposition 98 General Fund and TANF.

CalWORKs Stage 2, also an entitlement program, is administered by the Department of Education and provides child care services to families transitioning off of CalWORKs. Families are eligible to receive services for up to two years after they no longer receive a CalWORKs grant. Stage 2 is funded through a combination of Proposition 98 General Fund and federal funds.

CalWORKs Stage 3, a capped program (not an entitlement), is also administered by the Department of Education and provides child care services to families that have exhausted their two-year time limit in Stage 2. Families remain eligible for services provided that their children are younger than age 13 and they meet the income eligibility criteria. The budget provides federal funding for services through October 2010.

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.