Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appears in the new action movie “The Expendables,” but he shouldn’t consider California’s most vulnerable residents among his co-stars, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner said this morning.
Skinner, D-Berkeley, called a news conference to roll out a new 60-second Web video featuring interviews with local residents who stand to lose their jobs, their independence, their homes and more to budget cuts.
This is part of a talking-points campaign orchestrated through Assembly Speaker John Perez’ Office of Member Services, so you can expect to see similar videos, statements and news conferences from Democratic lawmakers around the state.
“It seems like in the governor’s budget plan, some Californians have been deemed to be ‘expendables,’” Skinner said at her event in the Franklin Preschool on Eighth Street in Berkeley, arguing that the Legislature and governor are responsible for ensuring these vulnerable people are protected. “We’re going to do our best to communicate this.”
Michelle Rousey, 39, of Oakland, is wheelchair-bound and requires oxygen; she has been an In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) consumer since the early ‘90s. IHSS cuts are “a deadly proposal to eliminate vital services that we use,” she said at today’s news conference.
Daniel McGrath, 34, of Berkeley, has been an IHSS care provider for six and a half years, with three elderly or disabled clients in the Berkeley area. “Life or death should never be on the table,” he said today.
Michelle Alvarez, 34, of Berkeley, said if her two children can’t go to state-funded preschool and afterschool programs, her husband will have to quit the part-time job he got two months ago in order to stay home and care for them; that would leave the family of four living on her salary as an administrative assistant at UC-Berkeley. “Why is he (Schwarzenegger) treating our kids worse than prisoners?”
Michael Pope, 53, executive director of Berkeley-based Alzheimer’s Services of the East Bay, said “seniors who gave to this state” all their lives stand to lose crucial day care and family support services. “They need our support, this is not a time in their life when we should be throwing them under the bus.”
Franklin Preschool teacher Sandra Farmer, 67, of Pittsburg, said that in her 37 years in early child development, “I’ve never seen anything like I’m seeing right now” – a situation where loss of preschool will put low-income parents out of work, back on unemployment or welfare.
And Janien Harrison, 40, of San Leandro, an IHSS consumer who has used an electric wheelchair to get around since suffering a traumatic brain injury in a 1999 car accident, said “the cuts would make it so I would not have the opportunity to stay in my home” – she’d have to go to a hospital or institution instead, a far costlier proposition than IHSS. “These cuts disenfranchise my life.”
It’s not a “pity party,” Skinner said, but rather a demonstration that people’s ability to live productively and independently is at risk “if we’re not smart with the budget.” She said Democrats put forth a proposal that included billions in cuts – though not cuts that would have put people like this at risk – while also recognizing that “to do justice and to avoid putting people in harms’ way and to avoid job loss, there is a need for revenue.”
“The Republicans are not talking and the governor basically doesn’t seem to care,” she said.
Skinner before the news conference had said “it’s difficult to make a forecast” about how this year’s budget drama will play out. With state Senate Republican Leader Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta, set to turn over his leadership role to state Sen. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, on Sept. 1, the “reset” button is about to be hit.
“There just doesn’t seem to be willingness on the Republican side to really negotiate,” said Skinner, who serves on the budget conference committee. “You just wonder, is there a political motive going on? Did someone decide it’s to their advantage to delay the budget?”
Replied Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear: “We understand Assemblywoman Skinner supports a massive tax increase to protect public employee pensions and the status quo for unions. We simply disagree.”
I’ve received no response from Hollingsworth’s office.