Senate Republicans’ Budget Proposals Include Medi-Cal Cuts
Senate Republicans yesterday offered a "flurry of proposals" to help offset the state's anticipated $38 billion budget deficit for fiscal year 2003-2004, including requiring Medi-Cal beneficiaries to pay copayments for some medical care, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Senate Minority Leader Jim Brulte (R-Rancho Cucamonga) said Republicans will unveil more than 100 proposals by the end of the week that would reduce state expenditures by as much as $4 billion. Brulte said Republicans have proposed reducing state expenditures by $31 million by requiring some Medi-Cal beneficiaries to pay copayments for doctor visits or other medical care. In addition, Senate Republicans introduced a proposal that would attempt to address Medi-Cal fraud by granting state residents who uncover such fraud a percentage of the state's savings (Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/9). Senate Republicans also proposed ending Medi-Cal payments for some medical supplies, including prosthetic limbs, and requiring families to reapply more frequently for Medi-Cal eligibility for low-income children, instead of automatically granting the children 12 months of eligibility for the program. The proposals are expected to be debated on the Senate floor next week, the Los Angeles Times reports (Halper/Weiss, Los Angeles Times, 7/9). However, Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) said many of the proposals will likely "meet staunch resistance" from Democrats (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/9). The Assembly on Sunday voted 45-27 along party lines against a Republican budget proposal that would have reduced funding for several health services (California Healthline, 7/7).
Contra Costa Times: Although cuts to health care services under the Republican budget proposal, including ending funding to feed seeing-eye dogs for low-income blind people and closing some health clinics for Native Americans, appear "heartless," some proposed cuts "deserve close scrutiny," a Times editorial states. For example, the Legislature should consider a proposal that would save about $750 million per year by requiring children to be at least five years old by Sept. 1 to begin kindergarten, instead of the current Dec. 1 cutoff, the editorial states. "[N]o [budget] plan is perfect," but the GOP proposal "includes the kind of cuts that need to be made in an emergency, and certainly before huge tax increases are levied," the Times concludes (Contra Costa Times, 7/9).
- Sacramento Bee: The budget proposal put forth by Republicans would "put Shaquille O'Neal's next Mercedes-Benz ahead of health care for children of the working poor" because GOP lawmakers "hate taxes so much" that they would rather reduce spending than raise taxes on high-income people, according to a Bee editorial. Instead of reducing funding for children's health care and seeing-eye dogs for low-income state residents, the Legislature should pass a tax increase for the highest-income tax bracket, which would do "less short-run damage" to the state's fiscal situation, the Bee concludes (Sacramento Bee, 7/9).