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tv   This Week in Northern California  PBS  January 14, 2011 7:30pm-8:00pm PST

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closed captioning of this program is made possible by the fireman's fund foundation. >> belva: governor brown's budget plan to solve the state's $25 billion deficit sends shockwavshoc shockwavshock waves throughout the state. with deeper cuts to medi-cal and social services programs and bigger reductions to higher education. also, on this martin luther king holiday weekend we talk with former san francisco mayor willie brown and reflect upon the recent tragic events in tucson. the recent tragic events in tucson. coming up next. captioning by vitac, underwritten by fireman's fund
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♪ >> belva: good evening. i'm belva davis. and welcome to "this week in northern california." joining me tonight on our news panel are jill tucker, education writer for the "san francisco chronicle." sarah varney, reporter with kqed public radio. and jesse mckinley, san francisco bureau chief for the "new york times." jesse mckinley, give us an idea of the impressions that people have of governor brown's budget. do they consider it radical? >> i don't know if it's considered radical. i think what they consider it is realistic. i think right now you're essentially in the situation in california where things are simply so dire and have been so dire for so many years, and we're talking about our third or
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fourth year with multibillion-dollar deficits, that people really have hit the bottom. and you know, not unlike an alcoholic, at a certain point you really have to admit what you have to do in order to get better. and i think that what brown offered in many ways was just this very harsh, very fact of the matter assessment as to what the state has to do. and that's cut. and it also means raising taxes. >> belva: well, arnold schwarzenegger told us the same thing, that we needed cuts. and made the proposals to do so. what's different? >> well, there's nothing new in politics. you know that. but i think what you could say is that with brown's experience, with his age, and with his just kind of general demeanor you really have the sense of an adult in the room. you know, his delivery, his -- the fact that he simply is willing to say i don't know. his willingness to kind of take on issues which schwarzenegger may have taken on, but kind of with real seriousness that he's not really playing games. he's got nothing to lose.
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i think that that change, that sense, that demeanor is different than what schwarzenegger was trying to float. >> but what are the republicans saying? because obviously, there's been such a clash. they didn't pass the last budget until -- wasn't it october, if memory serves? >> mm-hmm. >> what are they saying about this? how much friction are we feeling already? or are they look at brown as an adult as well and maybe taking that cue? >> well, let's be clear. republicans didn't like schwarzenegger much at all. so if at all possible, i mean, jerry brown may be better liked than his predecessor. i think at this point republicans are actually giving him the benefit of the doubt. even in statements coming out after the announcement on tuesday there was -- or monday there was this real sense of they're at least giving him a shot, that they'll give it a fair hearing. and even on the issue of taxes, i mean, the republicans, let's be very clear, do not want new taxes in the state. they will probably fight even this proposal or put it on the ballot. but i think this sense of it really being the bottom of the
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barrel, this really being make it or break it kind of time is going to carry some weight. and i think as much as the republicans may not like taxes, they also understand that voters understand the enormity of this crisis. >> belva: well-k the governor put it on the ballot without republicans? >> no. he needs a few votes there. but even in signs from the republican caucus it looked as if there was enough wiggle room there, that jerry's made a very overt effort right from the get-go to get republicans in the room, to meet with everybody, to bring people in. and i think that that, kind of weirdly enough, jerry brown has a personality, it may not be the most pleasant personality, but he does have a personality, and i think that kind of personality in politics may actually, ironically, considering arnold's enormous personal charisma, oddly enough jerry's personal charisma may actually carry the day. >> so what do you think of the prospects for this june's special election? >> i think it's going to be tough sledding. i think they've got a shot.
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i think they're going to have to continue -- i mean, the reason jerry brown i think was partially elected governor was that he essentially came in and said i'm going to tell you the unvarnished truth. just the facts kind of governor. and i think that that's the way he's going to run his campaign. he's going to say look, if you don't want these taxes, i understand no one wants new taxes, but if you don't do this this is what's going to happen. he actually said on monday. he said it's going to be twice as worse, this is really a serious situation in going to your issue, of course, this issue of k-12. the one thing he did not put on the table was cutting k-12. and i think that that is really down to the dog's head if you suffer that metaphor. this idea that if you don't do this this is the damage that's going to get done. >> belva: can we talk about some of the cuts? or some of the areas that he has targeted for heavy cuts. >> well, medi-cal took it on the chin. the welfare to work program took it on the chin. both those programs, 1.7, 1.4, 1.5 billion each.
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higher education. between the community colleges and the uc system and the csu system. that's 1.4 billion. disabled programs took about a 3/4 of a billion cut. i mean, the people that are getting hurt by this, unfortunately, are the people who are the most vulnerable. >> well, it seems that listening to him when he was presenting the budget, it was surprisingly plainspeak. budgets are incredibly complicated when you start delving down into the details and reading all of it. it was very clear he put all these cuts on the table and said double that if we don't pass the ballot initiatives, which is very plain and clear. but the reality is there's a lot of question marks in this budget, there's a lot of things that still need to be worked out, and the legislative analyst's office questioned some of the savings that he had in this budget. so how -- if, let's just say, his proposal passes and we get
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the june election, are we there? or are there still too many question marks? exactly. >> i think at this point you're bailing out the boat. no, the boat is not in perfect working order. but i think at this point what they're saying is they extend these taxes by five years, if the economy presumably starts to pick up a little bit, if they have enough growth of 4% or 5% over the next half decade, then you're in a situation where you may not be all the way out of the woods but at least you can see the edge of the trees. >> the boat is still leaking but not sinking? >> exactly. metaphor number three, i think, at this point. >> belva: so we've mentioned some of the things that are going to be cut. and that's why we have sarah varney here to talk to us about what's going to happen with medi-cal and how is it going to impact patient care, how bad will it be? >> well, it's always hard to say because every year medi-cal has suffered significant cuts, i mean, really going over the last two, three, even four years. and every year people who serve
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that population simply say, you know, there's nowhere else to cut. so indeed governor brown has proposed another $1.7 billion to cut from the program. much of that comes from things that the state has been unwilling to do up until this point. so california historically has had a fairly generous medi-cal program or medicaid program compared to other states. we've eliminated a lot of these optional benefits like dental and podiatry, those sorts of things. and we've not really had drug co-pays or limits on seeing a doctor. and that's exactly what brown has turned to now. he's essentially proposed limiting prescription drugs for adults to six prescriptions a month. except for life-saving drugs. and limiting doctors' visits to ten visits a year. and increased co-pays for hospital visits and e.r. visits, in some cases up to $100 a day for a night in the hospital. and then there's been other things he's proposed as well in addition to restricting access. he's proposed a 10% reduction in the rates that the state pays to
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providers. that's been something governor schwarzenegger has tried to do over a number of years. and there's also a program called healthy families which provides health insurance to really the kids of the working poor. these are people who earn too much to qualify for medi-cal but don't earn enough to buy their own plans. and in that case he's proposing eliminating vision benefits for children. so there are something like 700,000 kids in healthy families in california. it's not insignificant. so the question would be where would these kids go for their vision care? >> it was a while back when they were recruiting vigorously to get kids into this program because they were trying to avoid problems later on. that just didn't fly. >> well, no. and they've been successful at actually getting people into the program. this of course is the s-chip program that was really something that was started in the '90s by congress and has been seen as wildly successful. but there are these optional benefits, essentially, that congress says you don't have to provide in order to participate in the program, both for medi-cal and for healthy families. and so that's really what they have left to cut because other
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than that they really have nothing left. i was going to say the other big thing that a lot of people who serve the disabled and the elderly are really concerned about is this elimination of this funding for adult day health care centers. so there's something like 27,000, mostly poor, disabled seniors who go to these adult daycare centers every day. and these are people who otherwise should be in nursing homes, but this allows essentially them to stay in their homes. so the question is always this -- you spend a little bit of money on adult day to prevent people from going into very expensive nursing homes. if you take that away, some percentage of these people will inevitably end up in nursing homes. and that's paid for out of medi-cal funds. >> the question in terms of the impact on these families. because i know the concern is a lot of this money in a lot of these programs is for families getting back on their feet and there's a fear we're knocking the chair out from under them just as they're getting up. but some of the suggestions that brown had don't seem so terribly
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unreasonable. in fact, i was surprised that they weren't already in place at least in part. for example, like a $5 co-pay for a doctor's visit. it seems very minimal compared to what a lot of us might otherwise pay. or some of the reductions in service like housekeeping when there's another adult in the home with a disabled person or something along those lines. but how much are these cuts -- i mean, what is the great fear in making these cuts? >> i think if you talk to advocates for this population they would say in order to qualify for medi-cal in california you have to be dirt poor. you're talking about somebody that earns $11,000 a year. so to us a $5 co-pay sounds great. i mean, i pay 20. but for somebody who's literally earning perhaps $1,000, $1,200 a month, there's really just not much there. you also have to remember that not everybody qualifies for medi-cal in california. you're really just talking medical and medicaid in general is designed for poor families and the disabled and poor
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seniors. so if you're a 25-year-old single male, you have no dependents, it doesn't matter how poor you are. you don't qualify for this program at all. >> belva: so what are the advocates for the poor and the needy, are they really riled up about this? is there a movement starting? what has been the reaction? >> well, i think to jesse's point, i think a lot of people in this world who historically even under schwarzenegger would immediately come out and say this is an outrage, we have to stop this at all costs, they're saying that with governor brown but they also are saying we recognize there's just nowhere else to go. and they think there's a hope that at least with the medi-cal program, federal stimulus money runs out basically starting this summer. so there's a huge chunk of money that's no longer going to be flowing to the state. i think there's a real hope that somehow the feds, because so many states' medicaid programs are really collapsing right now, so i think there's some sort of sense that the feds will step in
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& in some way and supplement these programs to a greater extent than they already are. >> belva: so as we move further into dealing with the recession that we've not ever quite called a recession, we're seeing these cuts both in health care, as well as in education. but this time we've said that k-12 has not been on the cutting block so far, but higher ed has been hit hard. >> yes. k-12, the governor's proposing a flatline budget where they would get the same amount of money, basically, that they got last year. k-12 people, they don't want to -- you know, they're happy. so they're sort of in the shadows right now. but they are raising their hand going, a, there's a lot of uncertainty in this budget and b, we're still going to have to make cuts because we didn't get cost of living in pensions and health care and everything is going up. so please don't be surprised that we're going to have to make cuts to programs and staffing and things like that to cover those cost of living increases. but truly, higher ed took a huge
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cut. jesse said $1.4 billion between th them. and i almost expected sort of the shouts from -- and the rallies that we've seen in the past. and yet it was to a certain degree surprisingly quiet. and i think as sarah mentioned people are a little resolved that there's just nothing else to do. there's no money. and so you're not hearing sort of the whining and the complaining and oh, don't touch us as much as we've heard maybe under the schwarzenegger administration. but truly these cuts are huge for the uc, csu, and community college. they do have a lot of options, however, unlike k-12, to try to cover those cuts. none of the options that they had, whether it's limiting enrollment or increasing class size or, you know, furloughs for professors. and worst of all, increasing fees, which they've already had.
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it's tough choices. there isn't any good choice. there isn't any -- anything that anybody's happy about in this. >> and his statement right after the budget came out was essentially this is horrible, we don't want this, it's a sad day for california, but we understand. you know. >> it's almost like, you know, all of a sudden you have a democrat in office, it's somebody that they -- that isn't schwarzenegger perhaps, and they're all like, oh, so it's really true. okay. now what do we need to do to roll up our sleeves? >> was there a sense that k-12 not being actually on the chopping block and considering how much money the teachers union put into brown's campaign and -- was there all a sense that there may have been a little bit of quid pro quo working there? >> you know, i didn't get that sense because the reality is they've been hit so hard and cut so much. i mean, truly class sizes are up to 35 in many places. and they had 14,000 teachers laid off last year. and so to flat-line the budget
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is still, as i said, not going to prevent layoffs in k-12. they spent a huge amount of money on -- their money is spent on people. so that means health care costs and pensions are a huge part of what they do. and flat-lining without a cost of living means cuts. and so they're not immune to what's going on. he did put a teachers union -- education. so maybe there's a little of his payback there. but i think k-12 just breathed a sigh of relief and didn't really feel there was anything political in that. and i haven't been hearing it from the opposition either. >> is there any sense, though, that they're going to have to prepare for what happens if these tax extensions don't get passed? do they have to send out pink slips ahead of time without knowing necessarily how the budget's all going to settle out? >> absolutely. i think k-12 especially, and a lot of other places that have to do their budgets, but k-12 especially, they have to plan their budgets way in advance and not know anything about what's going to happen when the budget passes. they have to send out their
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first round of pink slips on march 13th. and they're going to have to send out a number that reflects not passing those ballot items in june and perhaps a huge hit on them, unknown hit on them. so i talked to san francisco unified. they're talking about a $20 million shortfall even if all of this is happening. >> the best cause scenario. >> belva: back to higher ed for a moment, what are some of the dynamics, and how will people feel these cuts? uc berkeley laid off, or you said they're going to be laying off over 100 people. so are we going to hear more stories like that? >> yeah. i think it's going to be a combination of things that they're going to do. i would imagine they'll look at fee cuts again. they're going to be looking at furloughs. extending the furloughs that they've had. they'll be looking at increasing class sizes. brown actually wanted them to cut the cost of instruction, not enrollment. we will actually -- on the good news front, the numbers for
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applications, uc applications, came in today. and the out of state and international student applications are way up. and of course those students pay a lot more money. and the system is saying, look, that's not going to jeopardize spots for the in-state people. but those students do bring in more money. and that was good news. we'll have that news in the paper tomorrow. >> so california schools only for people from saudi arabia. >> yes. well, they will -- no, they say it won't affect those applications, but they will welcome those students with open arms because they spend a lot more money in our schools. they were happy to see that those applications were up. they want to bring that number, the number of students up. so they're going to be looking at a wide range of ways to close this. >> thank you. >> the weak dollar, apparently. >> belva: well, no good news but good words for jerry brown and where he's leading us now. my thanks to all of you for joining me tonight. as we approach the martin luther king jr. holiday this weekend,
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we sadly reflect on the tragic events in tucson and king's own death by gun violence. former san francisco mayor and speaker of the state assembly willie brown joins me -- joined me earlier with his thoughts. welcome, mr. brown. we're hearing that the recent threats made to senator leland yee are somehow tied in to the investigation of the giffords incident in tucson, arizona. in your career how much has this whole problem of safety weighed on your mind? >> never, really. not heavy, anyway. other than when moscone and milk were killed. there's been so many other times when people have issued threats. there have been people who -- at least one person who was stopped in city hall with a .357 magnum. but none of that has ever disturbed me.
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>> belva: you don't find that it wears on you, though, just being in the public eye and being controversial? is aththat just the life politicians have to accept? >> that's the stage we have chosen to perform on, so to speak. and you have to take the good with the bad. believe me. 99% of the time there's really no reason to be concerned and your security as such is that one person at a time can be handled. after all, if you'll recall, i was pied fairly severely right in front of city hall with guards all around. so there is absolutely no way, belva, to ensure your safety absolutely. >> belva: what is that saying about our society today, though, that we accept that death threats and living on the edge, worrying about your life, is just a part of trying to serve your constituency? >> i don't think you can worry about that. and i don't think politicians
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consider it living on the edge. there are too many of us that love public service to allow that to deter us or cause us not to want to do it. so i don't think it's an occasion when anybody would shy away from the opportunity because there may be some nut out there that might take a whack at you. >> belva: you talked about the murder of mayor moscone and supervisor harvey milk coming so unexpectedly and with your life also being on the list of those threatened. we then heard that there would be a new mode in government. do you see any change then, and do you expect any now? >> no, i didn't see any real change then. obviously, nobody else replicated or even attempted to replicate what dan white did. and we went on o'doing things as we normally do.
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30, 40 years later, the congresswoman in the state of arizona gets hit. and there have been obviously other occasions when things have occurred. no, i don't think that there's ever any way to ensure for certain the absolute safety of anybody. after all, ronald reagan as president, there was an assassination attempt on his life. gerald ford as president, right here in san francisco, had an attempt on his life. we don't ordinarily change how we do and what we do because one person or two people in the system somehow decides that they can change the course of history by just one wanton violent act. >> what about the mood of this country, though? do you think it is sharper-edged than it was even in the years of those that attempted
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assassinations and assassinations than it was back then? do you think that the country has drifted? >> i think because of the marvelous creation and the wonderful world of technology we now know more about what people say and what they do under this freedom of speech. we see more often than not the kind of blogging that goes on and the kind of columnists that there are out there. talk show hosts. all of these people. they didn't exist 35 or 40 years ago. we know by virtue of this technology, we really are acquainted with what they say and what they do, and it's how you publicize. obviously, that attitude was there long before these new inventions and methods of communicating. i don't think, belva, there's been any great change in what has occurred in our conduct and our comments with reference to each other. i just think we've become more conscious of it because of technology. >> belva: there are those
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calling for, say, in the month of january to be called civility month so that we would speak kinder to one another, so that america would sharpen some of the language you're referring to. do you think that's a good idea? >> i think it's kind of counterproductive to suggest that it should be only one month out of the year. why don't we make a new year's resolution to go forward every month out of the year, every day out of the year to be a bit more decent and respectful of each other, even where we disagree? as we did in the legislature with regularity. as we did when pete wilson was governor and we democrats dominated. or when george deukmejian was governor and we democrats dominated. or when ronald reagan was governor and we democrats dominated. yes, we ought to be mutually respectful of each other, but it shouldn't be limited to just one month. >> belva: we are on the -- we are right celebrating the life
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of dr. martin luther king. do you think there is anything left of his dream for equality, do you see any effect of that in today's world? >> anytime i see any politician running for public office and they invariably invoke the name of king, it means that at least they've read "i have a dream" or at least they have a little bit of familiarity with dr. king, and that speaks volumes of an improvement in their communication skills and in their understanding of what ought to be the way in which they conduct themselves. >> belva: i want to thank you very much, willie brown, for joining us here. >> thank you for the opportunity. ♪
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>> belva: well, that's all for tonight. visit kqed.org/thisweek for complete episodes and segments. to subscribe to our newsletter and our podcasts. and to share your thoughts about the program. i'm belva davis. good night. ♪ ♪ ♪
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