nyt political memo, california about to become “unrecognizable”

By JENNIFER STEINHAUER

Published: May 31, 2009

 

LOS ANGELES – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did not get the election results he sought. Now he seems determined to show California voters the consequences.

In a special election on May 19, voters rejected a batch of measures on increasing taxes, borrowing funds and reapportioning state money that were designed to close a multibillion-dollar budget gap. The cuts Mr. Schwarzenegger has proposed to make up the difference, if enacted by the Legislature, would turn California into a place that in some ways would be unrecognizable in modern America: poor children would have no health insurance, prisoners would be released by the thousands and state parks would be closed.

Nearly all of the billions of dollars in cuts the administration has proposed would affect programs for poor Californians, although prisons and schools would take hits, as well.

“Government doesn’t provide services to rich people,” Mike Genest, the state’s finance director, said on a conference call with reporters on Friday. “It doesn’t even really provide services to the middle class.” He added: “You have to cut where the money is.”

In less than two weeks, the administration has gone from warning residents that a vote against the budget measures would send the state – some $24 billion in the red – into utter turmoil to sanguine acceptance that “the people have spoken” and that the government must move on.

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