Budget Bargaining Begins in Earnest

On Monday, Legislative committees are expected to meet to kick off California’s May budget revision review and negotiation, hammering out details in response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s (D) spending proposal submitted last week.

The Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, chaired by Assembly member Tony Thurmond, (D-Richmond), and the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, chaired by Sen. Holly Mitchell, (D-Los Angeles, convene on Monday.

Both subcommittees are scheduled to hear testimony almost every day this week.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office last week released its initial take on the governor’s proposed budget, as did the nonpartisan California Budget and Policy Center. One thing the two reports had in common was a belief that the governor may have underestimated revenues in his budget proposal.

“Tentatively, our revenue estimates are a few billion dollars higher than the administration’s new estimates for the 2015-16 fiscal year,” said the LAO report. “Our revenue estimates would … leave the Legislature with more money for additional reserves, debt payments or new budget commitments.”

And the CBPC report went a step further than that:

“While the May Revision moves the state forward in some important ways, there is much that it does not do in terms of rebuilding essential public services battered by prior years’ cuts,” the report said. “As the Governor and legislators work toward a final budget, they could pursue various options: continuing to increase support for subsidized child care and preschool, boosting assistance for low-income seniors and people with disabilities, strengthening the state’s welfare-to-work program and reversing prior cuts to Medi-Cal.”

In terms of health care issues, reversing Medi-Cal provider rate reductions will be high on many legislators’ lists — along with the related push to raise Denti-Cal provider rates to the national average.

Also vying for the health care spotlight will be provision of full-scope Medi-Cal benefits for undocumented immigrants. At the release of the May revision last week, the governor indicated he would likely veto SB 4 by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), the bill to extend health coverage to the undocumented, if the Legislature sent it to his desk.

The deadline to pass the budget is midnight on June 15.

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