Cuts Put Calif. Programs On Life Support

Working families who can't afford health insurance fill the waiting room at the Eisner Pediatric Medical Center. Their medical care is paid through "Healthy Families," a program that serves about a million children state-wide - that may be cut to balance California's budget, reports CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes.

Patricia Munoz's children may now be uninsured.

"I don't know if I would have enough to take everybody to the doctor if it came to that because sometimes one gets sick, the next one gets sick, it's a domino effect," Munoz said. "They go down, down, down."

California is facing an almost $24 billion shortfall. Eliminating "Healthy Families" could save almost $64 million. Other drastic cuts being considered include shutting down the state's main welfare program which would save $1.3 billion, and a 5 percent pay cut for all state employees.

"There is really no way out of this fix," said Jack Pitney, a professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College. "There's going to be very unpopular cuts or very unpopular tax increases or some combination of both."

The state's poison control center may also be shut down. The 900 calls it gets every day will go unanswered.

"That number will translate into ER visits and ambulance runs and overburdening our 911 system," said Tom Kearney from state's poison control center.

While the cuts are traumatic, they are necessary. The recession has hit California harder than many states because it relies so heavily on personal income tax to fund the government.

Balancing the budget here is a nightmare. Voters mandate through ballot initiatives, spending and cuts and the legislature can't pass a budget without a two-thirds majority.

But it's not just California's pain

"The economy of California is more than 10 percent of the economy of the country," said Bob Stern of the Center for Governmental Studies. "As California's economy drops the rest of the country is going to feel it."

Back at the Eisner Pediatric Clinic, they're bracing for the worst.

"I don't want to be the guy to stand here and make a prediction about how many people will die or whether people will die," said Carl Coan, the medical center's executive director. "But intuitively, you have to wonder, as people get sicker, what is going to happen?"

It's a question no one seems able to answer - while the recession rages on.