In October, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed funding that had been set aside to provide childcare subsidies for people who have moved off welfare. If allowed to stand, the veto would cost more than the savings it would provide because it would send people from their newfound self-sufficiency right back onto the welfare rolls. The Assembly reached into its own operating budget to extend the CalWorks Stage 3 child-care services program by a few crucial weeks, and now in the special session lawmakers plan to re-adopt the program and send it to incoming Gov. Jerry Brown. He should put signing the bill on his early to-do list.
It would be an easy call — except for the glaringly obvious fact that Schwarzenegger convened the current special session so lawmakers would grapple with the $6-billion hole in the current budget, not add a $115.5-million expenditure. On Jan. 10, Brown will present a budget plan to deal with next year's gap — in excess of $20 billion — and to address a continuing year-to-year structural problem that could be closer to $30 billion. The governor-elect made it clear during a forum Wednesday that the budget problem is worse than ever, in large part because many one-time solutions available to Schwarzenegger have been exhausted. Services that Californians want for themselves and for the less fortunate will have to be slashed. Cuts that were previously unthinkable — including the elimination of entire programs — may be inevitable.