Some funds for California's disabled saved from budget ax

The Sacramento BeeMarch 14, 2011 

Like hundreds of people this winter fighting budget cuts, Steve Doherty trekked to the state Capitol on a recent Monday to argue his case.

The 50-year-old Walnut Creek resident spoke in a casual but unwavering tone to policymakers and others about the importance of four state-run institutions serving developmentally disabled people.

He brought his pitch home by describing his severely disabled 54-year-old sister Maureen, who's lived in one institution all her life.

"I'm a sibling," Doherty said. "I'm not a parent. I didn't expect to be as involved as I have been. It's just coming up to the plate to do what needs to be done."

For people such as Doherty, what happens in the budget wars this year means more than just numbers and politics. They've devoted their lives to caring for and defending sisters, sons and others who will suffer the brunt of this year's budget pain.

And they've responded to the proposed cuts by filling the Capitol with protests and pleas for more funding. In some cases, they've persuaded legislators to pull back the budget ax.

With Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature grappling with a $26.6 billion budget deficit, the cuts have targeted programs including in-home supportive services, higher education and facilities for developmentally disabled people.

Brown has said he'll chop even deeper if state voters don't approve about $11 billion in tax extensions this summer.

"It's been ongoing for year after year after year, and there's a lot of emotional toll with that," said Lisa Brown, who's testified in the Capitol about her 18-year-old son Alexander, who has Down syndrome.

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