Budget Gap, Health Care Reform To Top Legislature’s Priorities
Efforts to reign in the state's $14 billion budget deficit and overhaul California's health care system likely will be the top priorities for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and legislators in 2008, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
On Thursday, the governor is scheduled to release a fiscal year 2008-2009 spending plan and is expected to call a special legislative session to address the state's growing deficit.
Aaron McLear, spokesperson for Schwarzenegger, said, "The budget's the No. 1 priority right now" (Sheppard, Los Angeles Daily News, 1/6).
The governor and his aides have informed health care providers and other groups that he might propose across-the-board spending cuts averaging 10% (Mendel, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/7).
Schwarzenegger has maintained that the budget deficit or spending cuts would not interfere with ABX1 1, the compromise health care reform bill negotiated by the governor and Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles) (California Healthline, 12/18/07).
However, Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) remains skeptical and has ordered the Legislative Analyst's Office to assess the plan's effect on the budget deficit.
Perata has said that he will not hold a Senate vote on the plan until LAO completes its report.
Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger and Núñez have filed a proposed ballot measure to provide funding for the plan. The initiative seeks to go before voters on the November 2008 ballot.
The measure might have to be revised and resubmitted if the Senate makes substantial amendments to the bill (California Healthline, 1/2).
Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles), chair of the Senate Health Committee, has questioned whether the plan would ensure affordable health coverage for all residents.
Kuehl added that Schwarzenegger has a history of becoming "wedded" to achieving large-scale proposals such as health care reform, "even as it looks less and less like a good idea" (Rothfeld, Los Angeles Times, 1/7).
"We have yet to see anything from either the administration or the legislative cheerleaders, such as [Núñez], that delves into ... questionable assumptions and downside risks" of the health care reform plan, "such as the high probability that the proposed health spending mandate on employers violates federal law," Dan Walters writes in his Sacramento Bee column.
However, "the Senate is not likely to rush to judgment" on the plan "like the Assembly," Walters writes. He concludes, "With Kuehl promising extensive hearings, the health scheme may get the critical analysis it deserves" (Walters, Sacramento Bee, 1/7).
Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" recently included an interview with Núñez about health care reform and other issues he took on during 2007 (Russ, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 1/2).
Audio of the segment is available online.