Calif. Democrats Seek To Use Revenue To Restore Safety-Net Programs
Democratic lawmakers are seeking to use California's higher-than-expected revenue to restore cuts to safety-net programs, the Sacramento Bee reports (Sanders, Sacramento Bee, 5/6).
Background on Safety-Net Cuts
In recent state budgets, officials have made several changes to Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program,Â including:
- Cutting reimbursement rates for physicians;
- Eliminating services not required by the federal government; and
- Imposing copayments on beneficiaries.
In addition, California has eliminated adult dental services for an estimated three million low-income Denti-Cal beneficiaries to help reduce the budget deficit. Denti-Cal is the dental program under Medi-Cal.
Meanwhile, lawmakers have restructured CalWORKs -- California's welfare-to-work program -- by cutting the time limit for benefits given to individuals who do not find work from 48 months to 24 months (California Healthline, 12/12/12).
Details of State Revenue
In March, California Controller John Chiang (D) said that state tax revenue for the first eight months of the fiscal year outpaced preliminary estimates by $4.5 billion, in part because of higher-than-expected personal income taxes (California Healthline, 3/12).
However, Jason Sisney -- chief forecaster at the state Legislative Analyst's Office -- said that the revenue bump might be a one-time occurrence related to certain wealthy Californians shifting their 2013 earnings to late 2012 to avoid a possible federal tax hike.
Democrats Seek To Restore Safety-Net Cuts
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) seeks to use the revenue to restore Denti-Cal benefits and expand state mental health programs.
He said, "There is no shame, in fact there's pride, in fighting to restore cuts to those who have suffered the most during the budget crisis -- the poor, the elderly and the disabled."
However, he added that there are uncertainties about whether the new revenue will be available to spend.
Meanwhile, several witnesses at a Senate budget subcommittee hearing last week pushed for the restoration of Denti-Cal benefits, but the panel did not hold a vote on the issue.
Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) -- chair of the subcommittee -- said that restoring the benefits is "high on our radar."
Rob Stutzman -- a GOP strategist -- said that this is "a great opportunity for the governor to hold the line on restraining state spending."He added, "It's going to create an interesting tension for him with Democrats in the Legislature" (Sacramento Bee, 5/6). 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.