Protesters march against health care cuts

Community members rallied Thursday night to protest anticipated state budget cuts to health care and other social programs by marching through San Luis Obispo’s Farmers Market carrying signs of protest and garlands of ivy.

The protesters, who gathered first at Mitchell Park, say they are concerned that the need to eliminate the $19 billion state budget shortfall will have dire effects on programs that help those who are most in need.

Local nonprofits participating in the rally included the Central Coast Commission for Senior Citizens, Independent Living Resource Center, Food Bank Coalition and the Central Coast Clergy and Laity for Justice. They oppose the more than $6 billion in cuts proposed to come from health and social service programs.

Jessica Rothhaar of Health Access — a health care consumer advocacy coalition — organized a similar rally in May in front of Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee’s downtown office.

“This is a march for humanity,” Rothhaar said Thursday.

Rothhaar said an alternative to cutting such programs would be to charge oil companies a fee based on what they produce, and the rollback of corporate tax breaks.

Attached to the ivy garlands were postcards to be given to Blakeslee that ask him to back a budget that supports families and new revenues, like the oil extraction tax. In general, Blakeslee has said he does not support new taxes because they discourage business development in the state.

County schools Superintendent Julian Crocker said that finding ways to bolster state revenue is critical to preventing more cuts that directly impact families, children and those in need.

“We have to stop just looking at cuts as a way to balance the budget and start looking at revenue solutions also,” said Crocker. “You can’t just cut your way out of this.”

Carl Hansen, executive director of the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County, said it is important to take action as a community.

“We need to get our state representatives to hear that our county is the type of community that cares for our young people and the vulnerable,” said Hansen. “Cutting services from families that are not really coping as it is is going to have a huge impact on them — we will all pay a huge price for that.”

Staff photographer Joe Johnston contributed to this report.