Advocates for Low-Income People Concerned About Possible Budget Reductions to Health, Social Services Programs
Advocates for low-income people are concerned that Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) administration will target social service spending, including health care, as part of efforts to balance the state budget, the Sacramento Bee reports. The state faces a budget deficit for next year of $8 billion to $10 billion, a figure that could rise to $20 billion if courts rule that California cannot borrow money to balance this fiscal year's budget. Schwarzenegger has commissioned Donna Arduin -- who currently serves as budget director for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) -- to identify spending reduction strategies to balance the budget while preventing reductions to spending for education services, eliminating the $4 billion vehicle license fee program and refraining from raising taxes, which advocates for low-income residents say will leave room only for spending reductions for health care and social services programs. Assembly Committee on Human Services Chair Lois Wolk (D-Davis) said she expects Republican and Democratic legislators to oppose such plans given their reluctance to make such cuts earlier this year in negotiations for the FY 2003-2004 budget. But the Bee reports that Schwarzenegger will have "plenty of backing" for cutting "perceived bloat" in California's health care spending. For example, Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said that improving the state's fraud prevention program could eliminate $2.5 billion from Medi-Cal's $29 billion budget. However, a spokesperson for Schwarzenegger's transition team said it is "far from certain that social services and health programs are in for inordinate cuts," adding, "It is extremely premature" to make such predictions, the Bee reports (Furillo, Sacramento Bee, 10/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.