Reserve Funds for Early Childhood Education, Health Effort Targeted
Supporters of a program that funds early childhood health and education programs are fighting legislation that would abolish the program and use its funds to help finance Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports.
Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program, and Healthy Families is its version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
The program, called First 5, was approved by voters through Proposition 10 in 1998. The measure increased the state tobacco tax by 50 cents per pack of cigarettes to fund programs for children ages five and younger.
Last month, Sens. Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks) and Tom Harmon (R-Huntington Beach) introduced legislation that would transfer $365 million in First 5 reserves to the state general fund and transfer $2 billion in other unspent money to counties and schools.
Cox said future revenue from the tobacco tax increases approved in First 5 would be redirected to Medi-Cal and Healthy Families.
If approved in the Legislature, the proposal would go to voters. The original deadline for the Nov. 4 ballot already has passed, but the deadline for a supplemental ballot is less than a month away, according to the Press-Enterprise.
Supporters of First 5 say abolishing the program would hurt young children and families.
Last week, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted to formalize its opposition to the bill.
Cox cites examples of questionable program expenditures by local First 5 commissions and argues that state funds could be used more effectively on other projects (Glick/Miller, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 7/25).