Schwarzenegger Confident Budget Will Pass Soon
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Thursday said he believes "[e]very child should have the right to some health care" and reaffirmed his support to include funding in the fiscal year 2006-2007 state budget for county Healthy Kids programs, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The Legislature did not pass a budget by the constitutional deadline on Thursday, in part because of disagreements over two measures that would expand health insurance programs to undocumented immigrant children (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 6/15). Republicans and Democrats also disagree on debt repayment and reserve fund contributions (AP/Contra Costa Times, 6/16).
The budget includes $23 million for 18 counties that provide health insurance through Healthy Kids programs to children who are ineligible for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families.
A separate measure in the budget would provide $2 million in startup funds to expand eligibility for Healthy Families to children from households with incomes of up to 300% of the federal poverty level. The current threshold is 250%. The Department of Finance estimates the expansion would cost the state $302 million annually by 2008, with care for undocumented immigrant children accounting for $286 million.
The Healthy Families expansion would become inoperative if a proposed tobacco tax measure for the November ballot is approved (California Healthline, 6/15).
Schwarzenegger said he was confident that lawmakers will pass a budget "within the next few days." However, Republicans said they would not vote for a budget that allows undocumented children to receive health coverage (DeArmond, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 6/16).
Schwarzenegger also opposes the expansion of Healthy Families, saying that the state has a chronic deficit and that there are still 250,000 children eligible for public programs who are not enrolled (Mendel, San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/16).
Budget negotiations will continue Friday (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 6/16).
It's "difficult to see what all the fuss is about" over expanding children's health insurance programs, a move that would allow undocumented children to receive benefits, Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters writes, noting that the "state already provides many services, especially health care and education, to illegal immigrants."
However, "the issue operates on more than one level," as "immigration has become a hot button that both parties are pushing throughout the nation" during an election year, Walters states (Walters, Sacramento Bee, 6/16).