Assembly, Senate Approve ‘Skeletal Budgets’ that ‘Differ Significantly’ from Davis’ Plan
The Assembly and Senate yesterday each passed "skeletal budgets" for fiscal year 2003, beginning the formal budget negotiation process that will determine how to cover a $23.6 billion state budget deficit, the Los Angeles Times reports. Typically, each chamber passes a pro-forma budget, a procedure necessary to start the budget negotiation process in conference committee. This year, some Senate Republicans voiced objections to the Senate's version of the budget, thus delaying the process until some tax increase proposals and other "revenue raisers" were removed from the plan (Tamaki/Bustillo, Los Angeles Times, 5/31). The chambers' budget plans "differ significantly" from the plan proposed by Gov. Gray Davis (D), the Contra Costa Times reports. Although lawmakers acted to restore many of the health and social services cuts suggested by Davis, they did not offset those restorations with other reductions (LaMar, Contra Costa Times, 5/31). Davis' spending plan would cover the budget deficit in part by reducing health and social services spending by about $700 million. The Senate proposal would allocate $689 million more than what Davis suggested for health programs, including $263 million to avoid eliminating some optional Medi-Cal benefits that would be cut under the Davis plan. In addition, the Senate plan would appropriate $155 million to prevent Medi-Cal beneficiaries from re-applying for coverage on a quarterly basis, as would be required by Davis' budget proposal. The Senate plan does not include funds to extend Healthy Families coverage to parents of eligible children (California Healthline, 5/29). Like Davis' plan, the Senate bill also includes a provision that would allow the state to borrow against future tobacco settlement payments, which would cover $4.5 billion of the budget shortfall (Hill, Sacramento Bee, 5/31). The Assembly budget plan, passed on a party-line vote, would restore $900 million in health and social service cuts contained in Davis's budget plan (Contra Costa Times, 5/31). The budget conference committee is expected to convene next week (Los Angeles Times, 5/31).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.