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Governor visits Santa Maria, urges legislators to pass budget
Bryan Walton/Staff Governor Schwarzenegger greets people at the Santa Maria Wisdom Center Monday before his press conference with Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria.

Standing before elderly clients at the Santa Maria Wisdom Center on Monday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urged California legislators to pass a state budget or risk further harm to the state/s most vulnerable residents.

The governor/s comments came during a tour of the center at 1414 N. Broadway, which offers personalized medical adult day care, but is on the verge of closing its doors for lack of funding because the state is unable to fund programs due to the budget delay.

A budget was passed by the Assembly in July but is stalled in the Senate.

During his visit Monday, the Republican governor told clients, their families and the media that he came &#8220to see first hand how the budget deadlock in Sacramento is hurting people all over California.C

Standing next to Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, the governor commended Maldonado for breaking ranks with the Republican caucus and voting &#8220yesC on the budget. (One more Republican vote is needed in the Senate for the budget to move forward.)

Following his visit to Santa Maria, Schwarzenegger headed to Fresno for a similar event.

The Wisdom Center serves 92 seniors 7 many of whom suffer from Alzheimer/s, diabetes and other illnesses that require specialized counseling or care 7 and 92 percent of the center/s funding comes from MediCal.

Without a state budget, center officials say, the center will close its doors by the end of the month, forcing many clients into nursing homes, which in the long run could cost

taxpayers more in subsidies.

The Santa Maria center is the only one of its kind on the Central Coast, officials said, and it costs about ,90,000 a month to operate.

The center received some reprieve when Life Steps Foundation came forward and provided two months of funding, but that is dwindling, said Alice Reyes, program assistant.

Reyes noted that a similar center in Bakersfield has already closed due to lack of funding, and Santa Maria is on track to be next.

Santa Barbara County 4th District Supervisor Joni Gray, who was on hand to hear the remarks, said she would ask county staff today if there is any way the county could help to keep the center open until the state budget is resolved.

Reyes added that many other programs that rely on MediCal are also suffering from what the governor called a &#8220budget deadlock.C

In July, State Controller John Chiang withheld ,1.1 billion in state payments to groups such as community colleges, special-education programs, and nursing homes since the Legislature failed to send a budget to the governor in time for the beginning of the fiscal year.

Chiang estimated that if there is no budget by the end of August, an additional ,2.1 billion would be withheld for that month/s payments.

&#8220One of the biggest and most important responsibilities that we have (as elected officials) is to pass a budget every year, so the state can do what it needs to do,C Schwarzenegger said.

By holding up the budget, &#8220instead of solving problems we are creating problems,C the governor added. &#8220And government should always be part of the solution not part of the problem.C

Maldonado confessed to the crowd that he is &#8220dumbfoundedC as to why the spending plan is being held up in the Senate, noting that Republicans got all they asked for in the budget at the beginning of the year, including bringing the deficit down to zero.

Schwarzenegger touted the budget proposal as fiscally responsible while paying down the debt and fully funding education and public safety.

However, Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks, characterized the budget as unbalanced and full of &#8220ludicrousC assumptions and accounting gimmicks.

&#8220Of the ,700 million (the governor) has promised to line item (veto), much of it is the same book keeping gimmicks that got us in this mess,C McClintock said, from his office in Sacramento. &#8220,160 million is simply delaying medical payments one month into the next fiscal year 7 that/s akin to delaying your December mortgage payment until January 1 and saying, >Look at all the money we saved./C

The impasse will not be solved, he contended, until a balanced budget is presented and he chastised legislative leadership for allowing the summer recess without a budget.

&#8220You can not balance the budget on happy thoughts and pixy dust,C McClintock said. &#8220And Republicans can/t negotiate with themselves.C

He further questioned the governor/s commitment to the budget, asking why Schwarzenegger hasn/t used his authority to call the Legislature back into session to solve the impasse.

Malia Spencer can be reached at 739-2219 or mspencer@santa

August 14, 2007

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