Local lawmakers call for alternatives to proposed state budget cuts

A group of elected officials and labor leaders from across California, including Santa Clara County Supervisors Cindy Chavez and Dave Cortese, called on state legislators Wednesday to avoid making harsh budget cuts to services affecting people of color.

Chavez and Cortese joined Assemblyman Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, and roughly a dozen labor officials called for a series of budget alternatives to the state's May budget revision, which the coalition argued would exacerbate inequality rather than reduce it.

Cuts or funding stagnation for at-home nursing care, K-12 education and state social programs such as CalWorks are more likely to disproportionately harm people of color, particularly black and Latino people, according to the coalition.

"We don't invest in people," Chavez said, adding that it's seen as uncontroversial when governments extend support funding to private industry but expanding the social safety net is seen as taboo.

In a letter to state legislators, the coalition demanded the elimination of so-called trigger cuts, which would allow the state to slash funding if the federal government does not provide future aid during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The coalition also demanded that state officials use some of the state's nearly $33 billion in unissued bonds, eliminate tax-funded subsidies for large companies, raise the state's corporate tax rate and ensure wealthy individuals and corporations pay their legally obligated tax rate.

Closing those gaps in tax revenue and adding bond funding, the group argued, would eliminate the need to cut vital services and programs that disproportionately affect people of color.

"This is an investment strategy in our people," Chavez said. "It says to all of us that we are so valued by the state of California, we are so valued by our local elected officials that they're willing to invest in us to make the (golden) state golden for real, this time."

Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled the state's May budget revision roughly a month ago, forecasting a budget deficit of $54.3 billion as a result of lost sales, personal income and corporate tax revenue during the pandemic.

The $203.3 billion budget is roughly $20 billion less than Newsom's initial budget proposal in January and includes some $6 billion in eliminated expansions of programs like Medi-Cal.

"I'm proud to be a part of making sure that austerity does not become the demise of all of us," Cortese said. "We have to continue to invest."