Gov. Urges California Leaders To Reject Health Reform Bills
During his State of the State address on Wednesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) criticized national health care reform proposals and urged California's congressional delegation to reject the legislation, the Los Angeles Times reports (Rothfeld, Los Angeles Times, 1/7).
The governor's statements were a departure from his previously expressed support for a national health care overhaul. He said, "Health care reform, which started as noble and needed legislation, has become a trough of bribes, deals and loopholes" (Williams, AP/Ventura County Star, 1/7).
The governor called for California's congressional representatives to seek a deal similar to the one granted to Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). Senate leaders obtained Nelson's vote by agreeing that the federal government would fully fund the cost of a Medicaid expansion in Nebraska.
In contrast, Schwarzenegger said the reform proposals would compel California to pay $3 billion to cover an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program. Critics questioned the governor's estimate and said the federal government would pay for the majority of the expansion (Zapler, San Jose Mercury News, 1/6).
Schwarzenegger also reiterated his complaint that California receives about 78 cents for every dollar it sends to the federal government in taxes (Harmon, Contra Costa Times, 1/6). "The federal government is part of our budget problem," he said (Woo/Carlton, Wall Street Journal, 1/7).
Following Schwarzenegger's speech, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) criticized the assertion that the federal government is adding to California's budget woes.
"California is facing a $20 billion deficit now, whether or not national health care reform is passed," Feinstein said. She added, "The governor's comparison of the most populous state in the nation to a small rural state is a red herring" (Lagos, "Politics Blog," San Francisco Chronicle, 1/6).
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) also expressed surprise about the governor's stance on health care reform.
Bass said, "I think it's irresponsible â¦ To tell our (congressional) delegation to vote no when they haven't even reconciled both bills, I don't think made much sense at all" (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 1/6).
Health Care Cuts Around the Corner?
Although Schwarzenegger is not scheduled to release his budget plan until tomorrow, Wednesday's speech offered some indication of what might be in store for the next fiscal year.
The governor said California faces a $19.9 billion deficit, which is slightly lower than the $20.7 billion shortfall projected by the Legislative Analyst's Office.
During his speech, Schwarzenegger promised that his budget plan would not include substantial cuts to education (Buchanan/Lagos, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/7). The governor said he does intend to reduce state spending on prisons (Steinhauer, New York Times, 1/7).
Schwarzenegger's address also hinted that he plans to propose reductions in health and social services. The governor spoke about the need to make "a Sophie's choice among our obligations. Which child do we cut? Is it the sick one or the poor one?" (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 1/6).
Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria), Schwarzenegger's nominee for lieutenant governor, confirmed that health care and social services likely will lose funding during the next budget round (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/7).Assembly member Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) said he expects the governor to revive previous proposals to cut funding from Medi-Cal and the state's In-Home Supportive Services Program (Melvin/Oremus, San Jose Mercury News, 1/6). 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.