BUDGET: Davis Signs Spending Plan, but Not Before Wielding Veto Pencil
Gov. Gray Davis yesterday signed into law an $81.3 billion budget that "contains few bold strokes and shuns long-term commitments," stopping first to carve $581 million in spending initiatives from the measure, including $262 million in Health and Human Services Agency programs. Davis sacrificed half of a $2.8 million expenditure to increase rates to optometrists who serve the poor and half a $4 million appropriation for ambulance companies that serve Medi-Cal patients. He also cut "90% of a $5.6 million fund the legislature approved to give behavior therapy to emotionally disturbed children" (Weintraub, Orange County Register, 6/30). He also "cut $26.7 million from a Democratic plan to allow low-income working adults to receive health care benefits" from Medi-Cal, but left intact $41 million in increases that would extend coverage to an estimated 250,000 people." He also "reduced by almost $60 million a legislative effort to boost wages paid to people who care for disabled shut-ins." Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa (D-Los Angeles) noted that despite the cuts the budget still contains "the largest expansion in health care in a decade," and said, "It's hard to lament about much" (Morain, Los Angeles Times, 6/30). Davis said, "A governor's highest duty is to build on the past, govern the present and prepare for the future. And that is what I have done. This budget is on time and in balance" (release, 6/29). The Sacramento Bee reports that Davis aides said the governor's health care cuts were designed to "build the emergency reserve and protect education programs from reductions" (Capps, 6/30). Davis said, "I'm an incrementalist by nature. I don't want to sign into law a lot of expensive programs we ... may not be able to sustain in the future" (Willis, AP/Capitol Alert, 6/30). The budget also contained a new allocation of $5 million for a breast cancer treatment program for low-income women, $249.5 million in AIDS programs, and $72 million to increase nursing home staffing. Also included is $213.2 million for a Healthy Families expansion, which will increase the program's capacity by 127,000 children to 422,000 children (Davis release, 6/29).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.