Braving the rain to protest budget cuts

City Councilman John Ashbaugh speaks to the crowd of protesters gathered in opposition to budget cuts
City Councilman John Ashbaugh speaks to the crowd of protesters gathered in opposition to budget cuts

Paso Robles-area resident Les Tilgner spends most of his time taking care of his bedridden wife, who has a nervous system disorder, and his 7-year-old son, who suffers from Down syndrome and diabetes.

Tilgner depends upon state funds for their care and will be affected directly by the cuts announced this week by Gov. Jerry Brown that will slash $980 million from schools and in-home care.

He joined a group of about 40 protesters Thursday outside state Sen. Sam Blakeslee’s office urging the Republican to fight for people like him.

“I don’t have a choice but to be at home and care for my family,” Tilgner said. “Fortunately, we have low cost of living, and I won’t be as affected as others who receive the same 20 percent cut. But otherwise, we might be living out of a motel somewhere.”

The activists gathered at the corner of Santa Rosa and Walnut streets waving signs such as “Bail Out Public Services Tax Mega Wealth” and chanting “No more cuts.”

San Luis Coastal Unified School District board member Mark Buchman was among the group that lobbied for increasing revenues through taxes that support public services.

“Yesterday, when the trigger was pulled, they hit you and me and the children of our public education system,” Buchman said. “Class sizes are growing, teaching days are fewer, and school transportation is less available. What kind of message is that sending?”

San Luis Obispo City Councilman John Ashbaugh and others took to the bullhorn to lobby for taxing the wealthy and providing adequate funding for services.

Democrats and Republicans should share the desire to see a healthy middle class, Ashbaugh said.

Some in the group, including “unhappy voter” Walter Health, blamed Blakeslee and the Republicans for opposing letting voters decide the reinstatement of tax increases, including the motor vehicle license fee and sales tax, that Brown supported extending.

“You allowed your personal ideology and future in politics to prevent our self-determination,” Heath said in reference to Blakeslee.

But Christine Robertson, Blakeslee’s chief of staff, countered that Blakeslee was among a group of Republicans who were willing to support the ballot measure if voters could also vote on a reform initiative, a condition Brown declined.

Blakeslee is in favor of reforming the tax code, of which Robertson said the specifics are being carefully worked out and that multiple proposals are being considered.

“I opposed the governor’s final budget and voted against the trigger cuts,” Blakeslee said in a statement Thursday. “I spent last year fighting for bipartisan compromise and reform. We will take the message from those at today’s rally and deliver it to Gov. Brown. My community stands with me in opposing his partisan all-or-nothing budget ultimatums.”