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AIDS Cuts Upheld

AIDS Cuts Upheld

AIDS Project Los Angeles has condemned an appellate court decision that fails to reverse California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s line-item vetoes that slashed funding for state safety-net programs by more than $488 million in 2009.

In a decision released Tuesday the court found that the vetoes, made to Assembly Bill 1 in late July, fell within the governor’s constitutionally protected authority to reduce or eliminate appropriation items while approving other portions of a budget bill. Among the reductions was an $85 million cut to the state’s HIV budget, leaving California’s Office of AIDS with only 20% of its funding for programs like HIV education and prevention, HIV counseling and testing, home health, and early intervention.

“Once again, those who can least afford it must sacrifice basic needs to help keep California solvent,” says APLA executive director Craig E. Thompson.

The court challenge, which was filed by a coalition of low-income individuals, health care clinics, and disability support centers, sought an injunction to restore the funding cuts. Plaintiffs contended that Schwarzenegger’s limited veto authority did not extend to the bill in question, since it made no new appropriations. APLA filed an amicus brief in the suit.

In a written opinion commissioned by state legislative leaders, the California Legislative Counsel Bureau agreed, stating that the governor is “not granted new expenditure authority, nor is a state officer's expenditure authority extended in any way by an item or section of a bill that solely makes a reduction of an existing appropriation,” as Assembly Bill 1 did.

But the court differed, citing legal precedent in its finding that “the provisions at issue are items of appropriation subject to reduction or elimination by the governor’s use of the line-item veto power.”

“Legalities aside, California’s HIV prevention and AIDS care efforts are now crippled,” Thompson says, citing increased HIV infection rates nationwide. “As budget negotiations start again, we must prioritize the fight against AIDS now, or we’ll pay dearly later.”

As a result of the cuts, for example, APLA lost $1.9 million in fiscal year 2010, including more than $1 million in state funds that would have opened a men’s wellness center in South Los Angeles to bring HIV education and care to that underserved community.

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