Budget Deficit Hangs Over Health Care Reform Negotiations
A month after the Legislative Analyst's Office projected that California would face a $9.8 billion budget deficit for fiscal year 2008, analysts this week said that the state actually is looking at a spending gap of about $14 billion over the next 18 months.
The projection is raising alarm among legislators, especially as Democratic legislative leaders and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) trudge ahead with negotiations on a plan to overhaul the way Californians get health care.
Assembly Democrats planned a closed door meeting Thursday to discuss the budget shortfall and health care, a day after Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) was scheduled to meet privately with the governor.
The timing of the meetings sparked speculation among political watchers about the status of a deal on health care. Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub blogged that Núñez and Schwarzenegger "are either closing in on a health care deal or making one last attempt to get it done."
However, some stakeholders in the debate are hedging their bets, with some considering an alternate ballot measure that would focus on expanded coverage for children. The plan would ask voters to approve a hospital tax to help secure additional federal funding for the effort.
Regardless of what happens with health care reform, 2008 likely will feature a different approach to legislation, with a Núñez spokesperson confirming that lawmakers will be asked not to introduce measures that call for new spending or tax cuts.
In the meantime, theWeekly continues its review of how health care-related legislation fared in 2007, this week focusing on health insurance coverage and prescription drugs.