Propositions 1D and 1E, described by the authors as a “transfer” of funds, would take hundreds of millions of dollars from voter-approved programs for children’s services and mental health programs, yet would barely make a dent in the budget deficit. Each of these voter-approved programs did the right and responsible thing when they were created by developing new revenue sources to fund programs and services rather than cutting into existing state funds.
The programs have been fiscally responsible and have planned for budget crises and declining revenue by setting aside reserves to be used over a period of years to adequately fund vital services and programs. The programs generated revenue outside of the state’s general fund precisely because there was never enough money in the general fund to meet the need for children’s and mental health services.
The raid on these programs would cripple the services offered, punish fiscal responsibility and place an even greater strain on California’s budget as people will seek services from other state-funded programs. These propositions lose all the way around. Whatever your opinion on the other measures, 1D and 1E deserve your no vote.
Proposition 1D would immediately take more than $600 million from critical health and school readiness programs for infants, toddlers and preschoolers provided by First 5 Children and Families Commissions across the state. And it would continue to take First 5 revenues for five years, totaling a $1.6 billion takeaway from children. First 5 programs serve more than 865,000 children a year in California. In San Joaquin — a county in desperate need of children’s services as we face a child poverty rate near 20 percent — this equates to an average of 37,000 children, families and providers being served each year.
Proposition 1E would take almost half a billion over two years, effectively gutting the mental health programs for our neighbors and communities in need.
The state of California has failed to make a projection of what raiding these programs will cost other programs immediately or over the long term. Both 1D and 1E will cut prevention and early-intervention services for children and some of our most at-risk populations. It is easier and less expensive to do it right the first time than to pay extraordinary financial and societal costs in the long run.
Who will serve the 144,000 children who receive kindergarten readiness programs or the 105,000 children who receive dental care through First 5 programs or the 200,000 who received mental health services since the voters approved mental health funding in 2004? This is more than a transfer of funds. 1D and 1E remove strict accountability requirements and put hundreds of millions of dollars into the general fund, without any guarantee of how the money will be spent. This is too great a risk for California’s children and mentally ill.
There is no doubt that we have tough decisions to make in California, but together, 1D and 1E would provide just one-half of 1 percent of state spending. Even in these tough economic times, neither 1D or 1E are necessary to balance the state budget; they are a false solution that destroys vital programs while offering no relief to the state. The only thing straightforward about 1D and 1E is that they deserve your no vote on May 19.
• Lea J.E. Austin, a resident of Tracy for 2½ years, coordinates a college early childhood degree program in Oakland. She is a political activist and was a delegate at the last Democratic National Convention.