Californians across the state will take action on November 19, 2008, to save the renters' rebate, an important program recently defunded by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Organizers seek to send a loud and clear message that Californians do not accept elimination of this crucial program for low-income senior, blind and disabled Californians.
The statewide day of action comes in response to Governor Schwarzenegger's unprecedented use of the line-item veto power to eliminate $191 million in tax rebates for low-income elderly and disabled Californians. This was the governor's single biggest line-item veto in the budget. The governor defunded the entire Senior Citizens Property Tax Assistance program, also known as the "renters' rebate", a program that has been in effect for decades.
Under the program, senior, blind and disabled renters who earn less than $44,096 eligible for up to $347.50 as a tax rebate. Last year, 467,000 renter households received payments averaging $316 per household. $150 million of the tax rebates are directed to renters; $41 million goes to low-income homeowners who are senior, blind or disabled. With no forewarning whatsoever, the Governor struck all funds from the program, despite the fact that the Legislature had included the funds in the budget approved by the state Assembly and Senate. Many eligible Californians had already filed their claims and were counting on these funds.
Events are planned for Wednesday November 19 in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. Press conferences and rallies will feature elected officials, advocates and affected renters and homeowners. Spokespeople will also be available in other communities around the state to speak with local media about how these cuts have impacted them.
At the same time, allied organizations across the state are urging thousands of their members to call the governor and legislators on November 19 as part of the statewide Day of Action to make clear their opposition to the Governor's elimination of the tax rebates.
The coalition opposing the Governor's veto is remarkably broad. Over 30 organizations have signed onto a letter to the governor urging the governor to fully fund the tax assistance program. Signatories included Access to Independence of San Diego, California Alliance for Retired Americans, Center for Independent Living - Fresno, Episcopal Community Services, Coalition for Economic Survival, the San Francisco Tenants Union and dozens more. The letter is available at www.tenantstogether.org.
"We're outraged that the governor would take aim at low-income senior, blind and disabled renters during these difficult times," said Dean Preston, Executive Director of Tenants Together, California's statewide organization for renters' rights. "The state's neediest residents were counting on this money. For the Governor to use his line item veto power like this is totally unacceptable."
According to Nan Brasmer, President of California Alliance for Retired Americans, "The Governor's veto of rebates for renters is a slap in the face to the neediest seniors. To add insult to injury, the Governor also cut the tax rebate for homeowners, which also targets lower income homeowners, many of whom are seniors. We call on legislators to override the Governor's veto and restore these rebates as soon as possible."
The following is a list of local events, with contact information for local event organizers. For information about statewide activities, contact Tenants Together at 415.495.8100.
LOCAL EVENTS AND ORGANIZERS
Press Conference, 1:00 p.m., State Building, 300 South Spring Street
Frank Tamborello, Hunger Action Los Angeles, (213) 388-8228
Michael Tarbet, Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, (310) 828-1366
Rally, 12:00 Noon, State Building, 501 Van Ness Avenue
Christina Olague, Senior Action Network, (415) 546-1333
Jeff Buckley, Central City SRO Collaborative, (415) 775-7110
Press Conference, 12:00 Noon, State Building, 1350 Front Street
Connie Soucy, Access to Independence (a2i), (619) 293-3500
Additional events and local spokespeople to be announced