Protesters rally in 2013 against cuts to Medi-Cal. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Evan Halper and Sarah D. Wire
March 16, 2016

President Trump’s budget would deliver a painful financial blow to California, with the potential to push a state that has struggled for years to keep its books balanced back into the kind of red ink that consumed it after the housing market collapse a decade ago.

The only solace state and local officials are taking out of a White House budget plan that would cut most federal departments by about 10% to 12% is that even Republicans in Congress probably will find all the cuts on the table too hard to stomach.

The president’s blueprint would disrupt almost everything California does, in some cases quite brutally.

Millions would lose health insurance, police forces would be cut back, schools would face layoffs and cleanup of contaminated lands would be put off. Some of the state’s signature initiatives for the poor — such as the massive In-Home Supportive Services program, which provides care for the elderly and disabled, and the CalFresh food stamp program, which serves hundreds of thousands of needy residents — probably would have to be scaled back dramatically.

Federal housing programs that are the bedrock of a plan approved by Los Angeles voters to confront the region’s homelessness epidemic would be vastly reduced in size and ambition. The ability to respond to earthquakes and forest fires would be diminished, and college students struggling to pay tuition would get less help.

“I don’t think we have ever seen anything like this from the federal government,” said Mike Genest, who was director of finance for former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Cuts of this magnitude would put the state’s budget into a level of difficulty and disarray we haven’t seen since the Great Recession. If I were still the director of finance, I would be sweating bullets right now.”

For all the positioning in Sacramento around standing up to the Trump administration and continuing liberal policies, the state is still deeply dependent on Washington. Federal dollars make up about a third of California’s state budget, much of it delivered in the form of Medicaid, the government health program for the poor and disabled.

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