STATE BUDGET: Senate Passes $81.7B Plan with Increased Medi-Cal Funding
The state Senate yesterday voted 36-3 to approve an $81.7 billion state budget for 1999-2000, a $4.2-billion boost over this year's budget. Bolstered by a $4.5 billion surplus this year, senators agreed to spend $900 million more than Gov. Gray Davis outlined in his budget. The Los Angeles Times reports that much of the extra funding "is earmarked for health care, as Assembly and Senate Democrats designated $200 million more for such programs in the 1999-2000 fiscal year," rising to $350 million more the following year. As part of the increase, the bill would expand Medi-Cal benefits to some working adults in low-wage jobs, at a cost of $68 million the first year and $180 million the second year (Morain, 6/16). It would give Medi-Cal providers, including doctors, nursing homes and hospitals, reimbursement increases of up to 10% (Willis, AP/Sacramento Bee, 6/16). The budget also includes $10 million "to help homeless mentally ill people by getting them into programs that provide medication, housing, job training and other services, and $37.7 million aimed at helping criminal offenders identified as mentally ill." The Times reports that Davis "is expected to wince at some of the health care initiatives" and have a go at them with his line-item veto power, particularly $90 million in pay increases for home health workers (6/16).
The budget as it stands now, however, may not get to Davis' desk at all, as the Assembly failed to muster the two-thirds majority needed to pass budget measures. The party-line vote reflected Republicans' contention that the $500 million tax cut contained in the budget did not go far enough. Assembly Republican leader Scott Baugh (Huntington Beach) said, "We believe that families know how to spend this money better than government knows how to spend this money" (Rarick, Contra Costa Times, 6/16). But Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa (D-Los Angeles) said, "Everybody is going to want to know why they can't support a budget that focuses on education, health care, infrastructure and has a tax cut" (Los Angeles Times, 6/16).