Advocates Worry About Budget Cuts if California Ballot Measures Fail
Advocacy groups in California are voicing concerns about more cuts to Medi-Cal and other services if voters reject budget-related measures in the May 19 special election, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 5/10).
In a statement Wednesday, California AARP President Jeannine English said, "If these measures fail, Plan 'B' on May 20th involves even more cuts to education, health care and public safety" (Wildermuth/Yi, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/10).
Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, said the state could consider eliminating Medi-Cal coverage for 35 benefits that the federal government does not require state Medicaid programs to provide.Â
Wright said that any move to tighten eligibility rules for Medi-Cal would require the state to forgo money from the federal economic stimulus package.
Regardless, Assembly member Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine) said the state should tighten eligibility rules for Medi-Cal and voiced opposition to accepting federal stimulus funds.
According to the Bee, additional cuts to Medi-Cal reimbursements for physicians and hospitals are unlikely because the state already is facing lawsuits over its payment rates.
The Legislative Analyst's Office estimates that California will face an $8 billion budget deficit in fiscal year 2009-2010, and Controller John Chiang (D) announced Friday that revenue for the year is $2.1 billion below projections used in the February state budget agreement.
The budget deficit will grow by $5.8 billion if voters do not approve propositions 1C, 1D and 1E in next week's election.
Proposition 1C would let the state borrow $5 billion against future state lottery revenue (Sacramento Bee, 5/10).
Proposition 1D would shift funds from First 5, which was created in 1998 when voters approved Proposition 10 to increase the state tobacco tax to fund early childhood health care and education programs.
In fiscal year 2009-2010, the measure would shift as much as $608 million in Proposition 10 revenue to the state general fund for other state health and human services programs for children who are not older than age five.Â The measure would shift as much as $268 million to the state general fund in each of the next four fiscal years.
The measure also would eliminate funds for statewide media campaigns and permit First 5 to allocate funding only for direct health and human services.
Proposition 1E would shift $226.7 million from mental health care programs that Proposition 63 funds to the existing Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment Program for low-income children for two years.Â
In 2004, voters approved Proposition 63, which increased the state income tax on high-income Californians to fund mental health services.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and the Legislature placed the measures -- and three others -- on the ballot as part of a February budget agreement (California Healthline, 5/8).
Contingency Plans Taking Shape
Last week, Schwarzenegger's office began outlining strategies for balancing the state budget if voters reject the ballot measures.Â The proposals would shift funds from cities and counties and cut state spending on education, prisons and fire protection (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/10).
DeVore pointed out that the Senate and Assembly Republican caucuses have elected new leaders, reflecting the legislators' opposition to new taxes (Sacramento Bee, 5/10).
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) raised the possibility of Democrats approving fees with a simple majority vote if Republicans would not support tax increases (Harmon, Oakland Tribune, 5/9).
Fees require a simple majority vote for approval in the California Legislature, but taxes require support from two-thirds of lawmakers (California Healthline, 1/6).
Prospective Gubernatorial Candidates' Positions
Potential candidates for California governor are taking different positions on the special election ballot measures.Â Here's a quick rundown on some potential candidates' stances on propositions 1D and 1E:
- Attorney General Jerry Brown (D): Supports propositions 1D and 1E;
- Former Rep. Tom Campbell (R): Supports propositions 1D and 1E;
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): Has not taken a position;
- San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (D): Opposes propositions 1D and 1E;
- Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner (R): Opposes propositions 1D and 1E;
- Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (D): Supports propositions 1D and 1E; and
- Â Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R): Supports propositions 1D and 1E (Marelius, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/11).
Letter to the Editor
Charles Wibbelsman, president of the San Francisco Medical Society, writes that the organization's board of directors has voted to oppose propositions 1D and 1E.Â "It is sad that when financial constraints become severe the most vulnerable are often the first to be targeted, and we oppose that -- especially when the programs in question have been working well," Wibbelsman writes in a San Francisco Chronicle letter to the editor (Wibbelsman, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/10).
On Saturday, the Bee published the latest in a series of articles about the ballot measures, this one focusing on propositions 1D and 1E (Feriss, Sacramento Bee, 5/9).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.