Jerry Brown is going to set us free!
Jerry Brown said his new budget is going be “painful,” but likely it is going to reduce the burden of government on people and families, even though taxes will go up and services will go down.
We note before we start that there will be many legal impediments to Mr. Brown’s budget cuts. Some require federal permission which might not come; others have been and will be in court. Many require a vote of the people, all require some action by the legislature, and no doubt some professional groups, like social work and prison guard groups, will bitch and possibly sue.
Even so, it is a Prospect Prognostication that Governator Schwarzenegger tenderized the public and the legislature, and Jerry Brown is experienced, and has credentials within the power structure, and he will get more cooperation than Arnold did. Further, Brown has more fully engaged all sectors; that means everyone will be squawking, the public will get tired of hearing educators, jailers, social workers, redevelopment people, and stop tuning in, making Brown’s steady, constant voice the only one they will listen to. By being a grandpa it is possible Brown can get more done that Arnold could by being a badass.
That is down the road. If he is successful in bringing his budget to implementation, there will be remarkable changes in the way government does business.
Brown intends to reduce spending in all major areas, and two significant to truly rural people are CWS and criminal justice for minor crimes.
In 2009, the rate of imprisonment for Sierra County was only a little over half the state rate. Because of “small sampling error” and other effects of a small population, the rate should be considered over time. However, in general the rate of imprisonment in the county is very low, particularly because other small counties have higher than average rates of incarceration. There are growing indications that California is a “police state” but Sierra County isn’t a “police county”.
Our rate of CWS involvement, both statistically and anecdotally, seem high. This might well be from the “not less than” clause in state funding. Often, small counties, in recognition of the fact that it costs more to do business, are given a “floor amount” which is, per capita, much higher than the amount given larger counties. However, one of the effects that keep people free in the face of endless laws and countless cops is the fact that there are still only so many cops or social workers per thousand people. Sierra County might have too much money, and too many staff to chase down too few children.
Jerry’s new budget is likely going to return that number to a reasonable ratio.
The budget calls for “realignment.” This is politocspeak for “we’re dumping it on you.” This means that it returns to the counties to fund certain services, and that means counties won’t be doing things they can’t afford to.
Among costs being “realigned” are foster care funds. Brown wants to return 100% of non-federal foster care to counties. If the county follows the law and fills out the right forms when the children are picked up, and if all of the court determinations are correct and timely, chances are the kids’ new mom and dad are going to be heavily funded by the feds. Still, one of the ways to reduce the number of children in foster care is to cost the county money. That, more than any change in agency culture, or even change in oversight, is going to change the way families are treated. Currently, there’s a minor cash encouragement to pick up kids.
Amount of change: not too much, but it does signal a staunch in the flow of money to agencies to take children.
CalWorks funding is also cut. CalWorks both helped and harmed families. However, reducing CalWorks might actually increase the number of children in foster care, both because it reduces the options CWS has to keep kids at home and parents at work, and because without it some parents won’t find work, and won’t have any benefits, and so will become homeless. The jobless rate remains high; well qualified people are going without work. Still, CalWorks participation was not without government intrusion.
Amount of change: considerable.
Unfortunately, in-home services will also be dramatically cut. Studies have shown that some people get more help from family or neighbors but others go into MediCare funded care homes, meaning a loss of liberty for a disabled person.
Amount of change: dramatic and probably unfortunate.
However, Brown is sending small time prisoners home, and requiring, but not paying, counties to monitor them. Over time this will influence both the charges the DA brings against people, and the determinations of the court. Unless other funding appears to change the cost to the county, the DA will charge some people with more serious crimes so they go to the state pen, and will allow some minor scoundrels to go free.
It is also possible that more and more crimes will have fines instead of jail time attached, in which case the DA will go for those fines as they now go for other types of crimes. Money guides justice in America, make no mistake.
In the long run, the impact on services like CWS will be dramatic, and it might be beneficial in ways we can’t imagine.
The purposes and results of realignment, according to the Budget Summary are as follows:
-Protect California’s essential public services.
-Create a government structure that meets public needs in the most effective and
-Have government focus its resources on core functions.
-Assign program and fiscal responsibility to the level of government that can best
provide the service.
-Have interconnected services provided at a single level of government.
-Provide dedicated revenues to fund these programs.
-Free up existing local funds not currently used for core services so they can be used
as an enhancement for the realigned programs or for other core local priorities.
-Provide as much flexibility as possible to the level of government providing
-Reduce duplication and minimize overhead costs.
-Focus the state’s role on appropriate oversight, technical assistance, and monitoring
Many of these changes are all anyone has asked for. No one wants to see Child Welfare Services eliminated. Some parents are ignorant, some are stupid, some are truly bad. As a community we want to see families continue to be helped, and to see children given as bright a future as possible. Maybe returning some of the funding requirements and the power to determine what are “core services” to local representatives is a step in the right direction.
It might also dismantle some of the “HHS kingdoms” created when agencies bring in money and create jobs and so are given carte blanche by supervisors.
By any measure, liberty is the ability to pursue life and have a family free of excessive government intrusion. Maybe these budget changes will increase our liberty by costing government to intrude.
As a side note, knowing a local meth freak isn’t going to go to jail for stealing your chainsaw or raiding your medicine cabinet is going to make some home owners and equipment operators a little quicker on the trigger, it’s a natural desire for justice and it’s known as “self help” among sociologists. Just a head’s up.
See the budget summary HERE