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Proposal Sends Shiver Through Health Agencies

The budget proposed by the governor yesterday, which includes deep cuts to health care programs in California, is unlikely to be passed in its current form, political experts said.

Legislators have made it clear that they most likely will wait for incoming Governor Jerry Brown to take office in January before taking on the latest budget shortfall. And legislative leaders have expressed support for health and human service programs: from contributing an amicus brief last week to a lawsuit that would reverse cuts in mental health programs, to lobbying for repeal of Schwarzenegger’s line-item vetoes last month of many human services programs.

But whether or not any of the proposed budget cuts happen, the latest budget reduction plan is a huge red flag to health care advocates.

“While these cuts may be rejected as too severe, it’s not like there’s tons of other options left,” according to Anthony Wright of Health Access California.

What’s so scary, Wright said, is that so many programs have already been slashed. “Because so many cuts have already been made,” he said, “the ones that are left are extreme, if not unimaginable.”

So get ready to talk about other solutions, including adding revenue, Wright said. “That’s a big part of the reason we feel everything needs to be on the table, including revenues,” he said, “because it’s hard to see what else we can cut.”

If the budget is balanced by cutting alone, that would mean elimination of core services, Wright said. Extreme cuts might not be allowed by the federal government, and elimination of programs might not be allowed by the state constitution or by voter mandates.  “At a certain point, we’ve cut all we can cut,” Wright said.

“People in health care have already been concerned, and this is just one more indication that there are no easy choices left,” he said. “There are choices, but there are no easy choices left. It will be interesting to see how a new governor tries to deal with this.”

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