Democrats Emphasize Impact of Budget Cuts on Health, Schools
Senate Democrats on Tuesday developed a 10-week budget strategy that will emphasize the impact of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) proposed cuts to health care and education, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Schwarzenegger has called for 10% cuts to all state agencies, but Democrats said they would rather prioritize spending for some programs to deal with the remaining $8 billion budget deficit projected for the fiscal year beginning on July 1 (Lin, Sacramento Bee, 2/27).
Earlier this month Schwarzenegger approved nearly $2.2 billion in budget cuts, including a 10% reduction in state Medi-Cal reimbursement rates to providers.
Other proposals to scrap dental services, optical care and other optional services for adult Medi-Cal beneficiaries remain on the table (California Healthline, 2/19).
Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill last week described Schwarzenegger's plan for across-the-board budget cuts as shortsighted and urged legislators to reject it.
With regard to Medi-Cal, Hill warned that a 10% cut to reimbursement rates would exacerbate the current doctor shortage and force patients to seek care in emergency departments, where treatment costs are higher for many conditions (California Healthline, 2/21).
Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland) said the public needs to understand the impact of Schwarzenegger's budget cuts before it will consider tax increases as part of a solution to the deficit.
Senate Republicans called the budget strategy a "scare tactic," the Bee reports.
H.D. Palmer, Schwarzenegger's spokesperson, said the governor's across-the-board cuts are meant to be broad so "no one individual program or agency shouldered a disproportionate share of solving this problem" (Sacramento Bee, 2/27).