Schwarzenegger Expected To Address Workers’ Compensation Reform in State of the State Speech
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) likely will call for reforms to the state's "troubled" workers' compensation system in his first State of the State address, which is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reports (Nicholas et al., Los Angeles Times, 1/6). Administration officials have been "tight-lipped" about the details of the speech, but Schwarzenegger also is expected to promote the $15 billion bond and the state spending limit passed by the Legislature and set to appear on the March statewide ballot, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) and Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson (D-Los Angeles) will deliver a formal rebuttal immediately following the address (Marimow, San Jose Mercury News, 1/6).
The Times reports that "many of the difficult details" about plans to close an estimated $14 billion state budget deficit will not be outlined in the speech but will be released in Schwarzenegger's budget proposal on Friday (Los Angeles Times, 1/6). Schwarzenegger's aides have said the budget will not include tax hikes but will propose "deep cuts ... for a wide range of state programs," including Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, higher education and prisons, according to the Chronicle (Salladay/Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/6). Margita Thompson, Schwarzenegger's press secretary, said, "The fiscal situation drives everything that is happening in the state. All the choices that need to be made are because we inherited this fiscally dangerous situation" (San Jose Mercury News, 1/6). Assembly member Joe Canciamilla (D-Pittsburg) said, "I can't think of any other governor in modern times who has this kind of public support to push forward controversial ideas." Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) said, "I don't think just because he's popular he can fix the things that have hurt us over the past few years," such as increasing health care costs (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/6).
Schwarzenegger should support a "complete reform of state finances," including tax cuts, "slashing spending every way he can" to balance the budget and additional reforms to the state's workers' compensation system, an Orange County Register editorial states (Orange County Register, 1/4).
The Sacramento Bee on Sunday featured several opinion pieces relating to Schwarzenegger's State of the State address. Summaries of articles related to health care and the state budget appear below.
- Schwarzenegger should "outline a responsible approach" to "identify areas of waste, fraud and abuse in government spending," because lawmakers must "protect the health and welfare of our constituents" while restoring the state's "fiscal stability," Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter), writes in a Bee opinion piece (Florez, Sacramento Bee, 1/4).
- "[F]our simple reforms" should be undertaken to balance the budget without "cutting vital services," Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Simi Valley) writes in a Bee opinion piece. These include: allowing the state government to contract out for services, eliminating "overlapping and superannuated bureaucracies," requiring state agencies to report immigration violations of people seeking services and reforming the workers' compensation system, McClintock writes (McClintock, Sacramento Bee, 1/4).
- "Real reform" to the state workers' compensation system "must be a top priority this year," as a "rampant abuse" of the system has led to high costs with few benefits for injured workers, Rep. Dennis Mountjoy (R-Monrovia), says in a Bee opinion piece. Mountjoy continues that to receive benefits, individuals should have to prove that "they are, in fact, injured and that the injury occurred on the job." That "simple change would make a world of difference," Mountjoy concludes (Mountjoy, Sacramento Bee, 1/4).
- Reforms to the "broken workers' compensation system" and "hard caps on state spending" likely will be "high on the governor's agenda" this year, Sen. Rico Oller (R-San Andreas) writes in a Bee opinion piece (Oller, Sacramento Bee, 1/4).
- Schwarzenegger needs to make "tough, necessary, controversial and even unpopular decisions to cut the size of government and close a budget gap of at least $14 billion," including reforms to the state workers' compensation system, Bill Simon, Republican candidate for governor in 2002, writes in a Bee opinion piece. The reduction in state services could be offset by increased charitable giving and volunteerism by state residents to provide "services to the elderly and disabled," Simon writes (Simon, Sacramento Bee, 1/4).
- Schwarzenegger should focus on ending the "political bickering that blinds policymakers to real solutions," require the state government to "deliver services in new, innovative ways" and make "the public good" the ultimate political winner, Sen. Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco) writes in a Bee opinion piece. Schwarzenegger "was not elected to dismantle ... vital health and safety programs," Speier concludes (Speier, Sacramento Bee, 1/4).
- Schwarzenegger should rescind proposed cuts to Healthy Families and ensure that budget cuts are "spread fairly" among all state residents so that the "most fragile" are not hardest hit by reductions in state services, Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson (D-Los Angeles) writes in a Bee opinion piece. Although budget problems appear "insurmountable," Schwarzenegger should work to maintain quality of life for residents who depend on lawmakers "to protect their health and their welfare," according to Wesson (Wesson, Sacramento Bee, 1/4).
- "Fundamental reform" to the state government is needed to improve the system and solve California's fiscal problems, Assembly member Lois Wolk (D-Davis) writes in a Bee opinion piece. Among other reforms, Wolk recommends that "reliable funding streams" be linked to programs they fund; state and local fiscal relationship be "revamp[ed]"; funding be dependent on "clear performance goals"; and public/private partnerships be encouraged (Wolk, Sacramento Bee, 1/4).
The following broadcast programs reported on Schwarzenegger's State of the State address:
- KCRW's "Which Way, L.A.?": The segment includes comments from Larry McCarthy, president of the California Taxpayers Association; Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project; and Kevin Starr, librarian for the California State Library (Olney, "Which Way, L.A.?," KCRW, 1/5). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- KQED's "California Report": A special report immediately following Schwarzenegger's address will include analysis and reaction from policy analysts (Shafer, "California Report Special," KQED, 1/6). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast, which airs at 5 p.m. PT and repeats at 11 p.m. PT.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The segment includes comments from Thompson, Canciamilla and Assembly member Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) (Myers, "Morning Edition," NPR, 1/6). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- In addition, C-SPAN will broadcast Schwarzenegger's address live at 5 p.m. PT (C-SPAN, 1/6). The complete address will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast.