‘Budget Dust’ Councils May Get Second Life

Three health care advisory committees were on the May revise chopping block, but now an Assembly subcommittee has voted to keep them.

When Assembly member Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) found out that one of the commissions up for elimination — the California Commission on Emergency Medical Services — was composed entirely of volunteers who are experts in their field, and that the state pays only for travel expenses for a grand total of $9,000 a year, he wondered aloud about the urgent need to disband it.

“If we’re going to review a commission,” Mansoor said, “let’s find one with a few more zeroes after it, maybe we want to find a more expensive commission to eliminate.”

Fellow Assembly budget subcommittee member Wesley Chesbro (D-Santa Rosa) put it this way: “This committee brings significant value to the state of California, and since it’s a volunteer commission and only travel expenses are paid, then it is really not worth cutting it.”

A similar situation cropped up with the state’s Healthcare Workforce Policy Commission. It has an annual budget of $27,000 — but none of that money comes directly out of the general fund. It is financed by a fee on hospitals, and the University of California system kicks in some funding, as well.

“So there is no assumed savings here,” subcommittee member Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) said. And even if there were savings, it wouldn’t be much, she said. “As someone testified earlier, this is mere budget dust,” she said.

“I’m just wondering,” Mansoor asked, “if there’s no assumed savings, what’s the reason behind closing this?”

The Assembly budget subcommittee voted unanimously to deny the governor’s plan to eliminate three of these small commissions — health care work force, emergency services and the California Rural Health Policy Council.

The budget subcommittee counterpart in the Senate passed a motion to eliminate the same three commissions — so the next step is to work out the differences in conference committee.

John Troidl, member of the Healthcare Workforce Policy Commission, said that if the panel is eliminated, the $27,000 in savings would be channeled back into the Office of Statewide Planning and Development, where it would fund about half of one staff position, rather than calling on the expertise of 11 experts in the field.

“This is the best bargain of your dollar you’re ever going to get,” Troidl said. “There is no cost to the state here, whatsoever.”

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