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California Slashes Services: Why Aren't Citizens Up in Arms?

Comstock/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Within hours of one another this week, legislators in Greece and California both announced plans for fiscal austerity.

In Greece, violent rioting followed immediately.

Public reaction in California remains to be heard, but experts on American politics and society say that though protest is certain, Americans' reaction to austerity measures are usually found at the ballot box, not on the streets.

In Greece, lawmakers moved forward a controversial packet of measures that would cut spending and raise taxes by $40 billion.  Some $70 billion in government services would be privatized.  Police in Athens fired tear gas to defend Parliament as an angry mob hurled rocks, bottles and any other weapons they could find.

In California, after months of wrangling, the legislature passed an $86 billion budget, plugging what had been a $9.6 billion deficit by means of a mix of spending cuts, fees and higher-than-expected tax revenues.  Related legislation would shift state prison costs to local governments and would open the door to more cuts in school and social service budgets, should state revenue projections come up short.  Cuts in March already had slashed billions of dollars from state welfare, Medi-Cal and in-home support services.

Californians of every description voiced their anger.

"Every Californian should be outraged," said Yvonne Walker, local head of the Service Employees International Union, in a formal statement.  The austerity measures, she said, would cut "vital services Californians rely on."

The head of the state's law enforcement association called the new cuts "absolutely astounding," and predicted they would force the elimination of 600 law enforcement positions.  The reduction, he said, would amount to an invitation to drug gangs to invade the California.

At the University of California, which had already seen $500 million in cuts in March that led to higher tuition charges and prompted angry student protests, the president's office said a further $150 million removed from the budget would de-stabilize higher education.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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