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State health care employees protest

SCV workers gather at City Hall

Posted: August 5, 2008 7:58 p.m.
Updated: October 7, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Local health care workers said Tuesday a stalled state budget has jeopardized local health care agencies dependent on state funding.

"This happens every summer. It almost becomes a game," Vivian Kimoto, a local rehabilitation counselor said at a health care worker demonstration at Santa Clarita City Hall Tuesday.

Kimoto, who works for the state Department of Rehabilitation, said, "As of July 1, we can no longer issue funds to clients. I have students who have had to drop out of occupational training until the budget is signed."

The department provides job training, mobility and transportation assistance for those who have disabilities and want to work.

"My students have to figure out what to do between July and August because they don't have transportation funds to get to training to better their lives," she said.

The constitutional deadline for state lawmakers to pass the budget was June 15. Republicans and Democrats in Sacramento are struggling to close a $15.2 billion deficit in the budget. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order last week that could roll back 200,000 state workers' salaries to $6.55 an hour, the federal minimum wage level.

"This is also rather difficult on me," said Kimoto, who has lived in Santa Clarita for 10 years. "If the budget isn't signed by Aug. 30, my paycheck on Sept. 1 is going to be $6.55 an hour. That is a significant decrease in my salary and I worry how I'm going to pay my mortgage."

The 20 to 30 members of the Santa Clarita/Antelope Valley Health Care Coalition who gathered at City Hall Tuesday delivered a letter to the office of state Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, urging him to support a budget that would limit cuts.

The group said Schwarzenegger's proposed budget would cut nearly $3 billion from hospitals and health services statewide. The group estimates one million children and their parents will be dropped from their Medi-Cal health insurance coverage.

Cuts to health care programs would actually be more costly to the state in the long run, said Mike Leighs, deputy director of LA Health Action.

"We cannot afford an all-cuts budget," he said. "More families without insurance creates more overcrowding in our emergency rooms. We really don't think there are real savings in these cuts. Costs would simply be shifted to other parts of our system."

"Health care is not a privilege but a necessity," said Therese Jawneh, a nurse at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center. "The budget needs to be signed and we need to find a way to increase revenues."


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