Let the Budget Plan Pushback Begin

On Monday, the Legislature reconvenes its extraordinary session on health care and officially embarks on the long public debate over the governor’s proposed budget.

Almost every budget proposal is greeted with opinions about what’s missing in it. The big question is, among the cacophony of requests for more funding, which big-ticket health care proposal is likely to be advanced by legislative leaders?

The front-burner issue is replacing the $1.1 billion managed care organization tax and both the state Senate and Assembly are convening their special sessions on health today to address it.

Some of the higher-profile pieces of health legislation this session will be on the agenda Monday because the special session on health didn’t adjourn when the regular session did last year. A slate of anti-tobacco bills introduced in special session will be raised in the Assembly on Monday.

Health coverage for undocumented adults promises to be pushed hard in the Legislature this year after that effort ended in a compromise last year to cover undocumented children in California.

SB 10 by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) picks up where last year’s compromise bill left off.

“The budget proposal misses important opportunities to invest in the health of California’s new majority, communities of color,” said Sarah de Guia, executive director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network.

Coverage for undocumented children is expected to begin May 1.

A number of bills will be heard today in special session, including proposal to impose a $2 a pack tax on cigarettes and a bill to apply the same regulations to e-cigarettes that are followed by traditional cigarettes.

More funding for seniors and the disabled will likely be on the Legislature’s agenda this year. That population got a boost from an extension of the Coordinated Care Initiative and a bump in Supplemental Security Income and restoration of a 7% cut in In-Home Supportive Services hours — but that’s not enough, according to advocacy organization Justice in Aging, particularly since that IHSS restoration was a court-brokered agreement. “More action and bolder policies will be needed to lift seniors and people with disabilities out of poverty,” the group said in a written statement.

And according to Doug Moore, president of UDW/AFSCME Local 3930, those bolder policies must go beyond tying help for the disabled to the MCO tax. “…People with disabilities, seniors, and caregivers are tired of being held hostage as Sacramento bickers about passing renewed taxes,” Moore said.

“We do need additional, long-term revenues, but using vulnerable Californians’ health and welfare as a bargaining chip is simply not acceptable.”

Categories: Capitol Desk