Deeper Cuts Won’t Come From Health Services

It was standing room only in the governor’s conference room yesterday, as reporters from around the state gathered to hear just how bad it was going to be.

Pretty bad, according to Jerry Brown.

“This is very difficult,” Brown said, as he announced his intention to cut about $6 billion from health-related services — everything from reducing child care subsidies to imposing co-payments for Medi-Cal services.

“These are not affluent people. It’s all difficult,” Brown said. “But it’s not going to get better unless we do something. It’s better to take our medicine now and get the state on balanced footing.”

Part of Brown’s plan is to ask California voters to continue a tax that is due to expire in July. The tax and the cuts total roughly the same amounts — about $12.5 in revenue reductions and a tax extension worth as much as $12 billion over the next two years.

Brown displayed the almost endless list of budget cuts to reporters in a PowerPoint presentation, and then fielded the inevitable question about the matching money voters would need to approve: What happens if voters don’t pass it?

“Just look through those slides,” Brown said. “And multiply by two.”

If Californians balk at approving the tax continuation in the June election, the state would need to come up with another round of substantial cuts, Brown said.

But those would not come from health-related services, he said.

“It’s very hard to cut health services because of the federal involvement. We’re so tied up in the federal money,” Brown said. “Every time there’s a [health care services] cut, you’re facing losses [of matching federal dollars].”

Instead, Brown said, “if they can’t adopt this budget, the more obvious place to cut is the university system, the prisons or K-to-12 education. What happens usually is, education is… cut, then prisons or public safety. These are just the facts,” he said.

In addition to the cuts themselves, Brown also proposed a shifting of many services to the county level — mental health services, foster care, child welfare, substance abuse and adult protective services would all be “realigned” to local government.

“And of course we’re going to send the money down to the counties to take care of that,” Brown said.

Brown summed it all up this way: “This is the world we live in. You can’t manufacture money. These cuts are extremely difficult, I’d even say Draconian,” Brown said. “And Draco was not a very kindly administrator.”

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