Schwarzenegger Budget Plan Includes Health-Related Proposals
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Monday proposed a $112 billion state budget for fiscal year 2005-2006 that does not raise taxes but "includes tough cuts in health care" programs to help address a projected $8.1 billion deficit, the Los Angeles Times reports (Halper/Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 1/11). According to the Sacramento Bee, Schwarzenegger's proposal would reduce state funding for some health and human services programs by $1.2 billion (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 1/11). However, overall funding for health and human services programs would increase by 4.6% to $26.7 billion under the plan (Halper/Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 1/11).
Health-related proposals included in Schwarzenegger's budget would:
- Redesign Medi-Cal (Rau, Los Angeles Times, 1/11);
- Provide an additional $29.4 million for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program to cover an increasing caseload (Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/11);
- Eliminate cost-of-living increases for Supplemental Security Income payments for the elderly, blind and disabled and freeze payments at $812 per month for individuals and $1,437 per couple (Mendel, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/11);
- Reduce the state's contribution to wages and health benefits of In-Home Supportive Services workers to $6.75 per hour from $10.10 per hour;
- Spend about $6 million to enroll an additional 15,000 children in Healthy Families (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 1/11); and
- Adopt a "fixed rate" for health insurance for state employees, rather than a percentage of premiums, according to the Sacramento Bee (Hill, Sacramento Bee, 1/11).
Schwarzenegger's budget proposal also included $10 million to establish two new programs: California Rx, a prescription drug discount program for the uninsured, and the California Obesity Initiative (May, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/11). Schwarzenegger said he expects to save more than $1 billion by negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for discounted medications purchased by Medicaid beneficiaries and hospitals (Broder, New York Times, 1/11). The budget plan allots $4 million for the California Rx program, which would be targeted at low-income residents.
Obesity prevention programs would cost about $6 million (Nissenbaum, Contra Costa Times, 1/11).
The governor's plan relies in part on borrowing and using a portion of the $15 billion bond issue voters approved last year (New York Times, 1/11). Schwarzenegger also proposed a plan that would force "indiscriminate spending cuts whenever the state falls into the red," the Los Angeles Times reports (Halper/Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 1/11).
In addition, the Contra Costa Times reports that "[l]ooming over this year's [budget] battle is Schwarzenegger's threat to take the issue out of Sacramento and leave it to voters to decide" through a series of ballot initiatives during a special election (Contra Costa Times, 1/11).
Schwarzenegger said, "This budget doesn't have much in it I want, but the fact is it is a budget that is forced upon us by a broken system. This is all the money we have. We must live within our means."
Assembly member Tim Leslie (R-Tahoe City) said, "There's no question this budget appears bloody, but these are the wounds made by a surgeon working to heal a very sick patient. If we fail to restore fiscal health now, the consequences will be far more disastrous than any short-term pain" (Halper/Vogel, Los Angeles Times, 1/11).
Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, said, "[Schwarzenegger is] going ahead with cuts that have a real impact on real people." He added, "Hundreds if thousands of people will have to pay more for needed health care," and many might lose coverage because they cannot afford it (Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1/11).
Kim Belshe, secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, said, "The governor's budget decisions did not come easily, but difficult times require difficult choices, and Gov. Schwarzenegger chose to strike a reasonable and responsible balance between his funding priorities" (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 1/11).
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) said, "Democrats are not going to settle for simply saying, 'Let's live within our means' and balance the budget on the backs of California's middle class, senior citizens and K-12 education. We have to find bold, big, innovative ideas ... so that we can bring more revenues in line where they actually need to be" (Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/11).
Several broadcast programs reported on Schwarzenegger's budget, including funding for spending for health programs:
- KCRW's "Which Way, L.A.?": The segment includes comments from David Drucker, reporter for the Los Angeles Daily News (Olney, "Which Way, L.A.?," KCRW, 1/10). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KQED's "California Report": KQED's John Myers reports on the budget proposal (Myers, "California Report," KQED, 1/10). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KQED's "Forum": Guests on the program are scheduled to include Assembly members Joe Canciamilla (D-Martinez) and Keith Stuart Richman (R-Granada Hills) and Steve Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy (Krasny, "Forum," KQED, 1/11). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast.
- KPCC's "Talk of the City": KQED's John Myers discusses on the budget proposal (Felde, "Talk of the City," KPCC, 1/10). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The segment includes comments from Treasurer Phil Angelides (D); Kevin Gordon, executive director of the California Association of School Business Officials; Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project; and Schwarzenegger (Jaffe, "Morning Edition," NPR, 1/11). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.