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Sacramento Bee

October 14, 2010

Steinberg wants to undo some Schwarzenegger vetoes

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Wednesday he will ask the next governor to reverse nearly $470 million in social service cuts that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger imposed while signing the state budget last week.

Using his line-item veto authority, the Republican governor slashed $962.5 million out of an $87.5 billion general fund budget lawmakers sent him last week. Democrats believed Schwarzenegger would veto only about half that much, Steinberg said.

"We presented the governor a list of items that we believed were worthy of protection, and these items were on the list," Steinberg said, referring to child care for low-income parents, child welfare services and mental health services for special education students. "The governor did not make any ironclad deal promises on the list, but that's sort of beside the point."

Steinberg added that Schwarzenegger "has the responsibility to make sure he uses that (veto) in a way that is judicious and in a way that is compassionate."

The Sacramento Democrat organized a press conference Wednesday at a Discovery Tree School in downtown Sacramento to protest the vetoes. He was joined by parents and advocates for the three main programs he hopes to spare from the chopping block.

Under the $256 million child care cut, former welfare-to-work participants now employed in low-income jobs would lose subsidized care for their children starting Nov. 1. An $80 million Child Welfare Services reduction will result in fewer social workers being hired. And Steinberg said students will lose access to mental health care under a $132 million cut.

Schwarzenegger said he needed to veto as much as he did to build a prudent reserve of $1.3 billion. Last year, Schwarzenegger used his line-item authority to establish a reserve of only $500 million. California ended the last fiscal year with a $4.8 billion deficit.

Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said of the $1.3 billion reserve, "That's a level he deemed to be appropriate for this budget given this fiscal environment." Palmer added that the $300 million reserve the Legislature built was "unacceptably low."

Steinberg said Democrats will seek to reverse the cuts in January when the next governor takes office. Even if Steinberg were successful, parents would lose child care funding for at least two months.

The Senate leader suggested that the cuts could be part of a larger mid-year budget discussion that involves even broader changes in the spending plan.