Panel Nixes Move To Shift Funds From Kids’ Health, Education
On Wednesday, the Senate Health Committee rejected legislation (SBX1 5) by Sen. Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks) that intended to ask California voters to transfer surplus money from First 5 California to health care services in the state's general fund, the Sacramento Bee reports.
First 5 administers proceeds of a state tobacco tax increase to fund health care and education programs for children ages five and under. Voters in 1998 approved the 50-cent tax hike.
The county commissions that control funding for First 5 programs have a combined balance of more than $2 billion, according to a report by Cox's staff. In addition, the state First 5 California Children and Families Commission has almost a $367 million surplus.
Cox said the $2 billion balance was nearly four times the amount that county programs spent in 2007, adding that the money could be used to help rein in a deficit in California's general fund and pay for health care programs.
Cox argued that questionable expenditures by the program make it difficult for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Democratic legislative leaders to justify a $1.75-per-pack tobacco tax increase to help expand health care coverage.
Sherry Novick -- executive director of the First 5 Association, which represents the county commissions -- said the large balance sounds "terrible ... like there's money floating around."
Novick added, however, that county commissions "do business differently from typical government agencies" and "fund multiyear budgets" (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 1/17).