Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The unkindest cuts

In Ronald Reagan's day, the misery index was the sum of the rate of inflation and the unemployment rate.

For me, my misery index is the sum of physical pain and anxiety about my health. As I count the hours to my biopsy on Friday and cope with burning sensations and swelling in my mouth, my misery index is soaring.

But what I really want to bellyache about tonight is Governor Schwarzenegger.

Yesterday, the governor signed a state budget passed by the Legislature but only after making $489 million in additional cuts, including $85 million in state general funds from HIV/AIDS programs.

According to a statement by AIDS Project Los Angeles, "the governor's signed budget includes the elimination of state general fund support for all HIV/AIDS programs except HIV epidemiology and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) —a total reduction of more than $85 million. This leaves California’s Office of AIDS with only 20 percent of its funding for programs like HIV education and prevention, HIV counseling and testing, home health and early intervention."

Cuts in AIDS programs are personally scary to me. Just the other day, I picked up another month's supply of five HIV medications, which I access through ADAP. While Schwarzenegger spared ADAP in Tuesday's round of budget cuts, other programs that are just as worthwhile were gutted. And there is no guarantee that ADAP funding won't get reduced some time in the future.

Schwarzenegger crows about not resorting to tax increases in this year's budget —he mentions that four times in a brief statement announcing the new budget— and he also points out that the budget leaves California with a $500 million reserve fund.

Methinks that dipping into the reserve or imposing some kind of tax would have eliminated the need for the governor to veto important programs. Those vetoes raise the misery index of all of us.

If you agree, contact your legislators and let them know.

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