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California Grapples with Cuts to Safety Net Programs

Local governments across the Golden State are beginning to feel the impact of the $4 billion in budget cuts made by lawmakers in the state's general assembly earlier this year. Spencer Michels explores the impact on California cities and counties.

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    This budget is kind of like "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."


    Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the cuts and the transfer of local money to the state, outraging some county officials.

    DR. WILLIAM WALKER, county health director: I've been a county physician providing family practice care for over 35 years. This is the worst I've ever seen it.


    Dr. William Walker, a family practitioner and director of Contra Costa County Health Services, thinks the health of the community is in danger.


    I've been health director here for 14 years. This is the biggest tsunami that we've ever had to deal with in terms of wave after wave of local budget cuts, state budget cuts, and in many cases federal budget cuts.


    Statewide, 500,000 poor children are predicted to lose health coverage under the new budget. Other cuts will affect immunizations, mental health, and HIV programs, plus major cutbacks in Medicaid. These are all programs that the state mandates local governments to run.

    Walker thinks the decision to borrow and take money from local budgets was just wrong.


    We are the state's arm to be the safety net. And if they're taking money away from the safety net, the state no longer has a safety net for essential benefits.


    Legislators said they had no choice. State Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, who used to be a supervisor in Contra Costa County, wrote the law allowing the state to get local money.

    TOM TORLAKSON (D), California assemblyman: In an emergency, the state can borrow money from cities and counties, so that's $2 billion borrowing that I'd rather not have done, but in this emergency it helps us avoid further devastating cuts to schools.