Assembly Democrats Tentatively Agree to $1 Billion in Midyear Budget Cuts, Excluding Health Program Cuts
Assembly Democrats on Tuesday agreed to eliminate as much as $1 billion in funding from the fiscal year 2003-2004 budget, but they did not approve cuts to health care programs included in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) proposal for $1.9 billion in midyear reductions, the Los Angeles Times reports (Vogel/Halper, Los Angeles Times, 2/11). The Assembly move follows the Senate Budget Committee's vote on Thursday to reject the governor's midyear budget cuts, including reductions to health programs for low-income residents (California Healthline, 2/6). While Assembly Democrats tentatively agreed to some of the $1.9 billion in cost-cutting measures, they did not include any of the governor's suggested reductions to health, social services or transportation programs. According to the Times, Assembly Democrats said that cuts such as the recommended $210 million reduction in funds for Medi-Cal and other health and welfare programs would cause a "major policy shift and should be considered only after exhaustive debate and as part of an overall 2004-05 budget package." Department of Finance spokesperson H.D. Palmer said that the Assembly's tentative agreement to some cuts "is certainly forward progress, and we are glad to hear this is happening." The Assembly could vote on the proposed midyear budget cuts as early as next week, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 2/11).
In related news, the Los Angeles Daily News reports that Schwarzenegger is developing a strategy to accelerate the Legislature's approval of the fiscal year 2004-2005 budget to the end of May, a month earlier than is required by the state constitution. Under the plan, Schwarzenegger will release the revised version of his January budget proposal in April rather than May. According to the Daily News, the plan is part of an effort to demonstrate to Wall Street that California "is heading toward fiscal stability" (Drucker, Los Angeles Daily News, 2/9).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.