Earlier this week, there was lots of rumors about Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s State of the State. There was considerable buzz that the Governor would mention new efforts around health care, beyond the continued focus on the ongoing budget saga. It was unclear whether the Governor would seek to offer health proposals that seek to build bridges with the Democrats in the legislature, or more of the health cuts and vetoes that we have seen in the past year.
But the Governor today said he wasn’t going to give a standard State of the State, while the budget and cash crunch loomed. He suggested he had big plans and proposed legislation, ready on his desk, on many issues, including health care… but that they will wait until after the budget deal. So no new news today on health policy.
On the budget, the Governor appropriately described the magnitude of the crisis and asked everybody to give, but he didn’t recognize how much some have given while others have not.
The Governor needed to acknowledge the $16 billion in cuts already made to health, education and other vital services. In health care, cuts have been made to have a quarter-million children lose coverage, and yet we continue to have a Republican blockade on raising any taxes or revenues to prevent even worse cuts.
We need to remember that despite the Governor’s recognition that we need to increase some revenues, his budget proposes to deny coverage to a half-million parents, and to deny specific benefits like dental, optometry, podiatry and psychology to millions more. The cuts the Governor proposes would not only harm the health system we all rely on, but also hinder efforts to stimulate our state’s economy. California would lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal matching funds, doubling–and in some cases tripling–the negative impact of these cuts not just in the health system, but the economy as a whole.
The speech seemed to reflect that a budget deal may be near–enough so that any other speech might risk blowing up negotiations. We hope any budget deal considers both the health and economic impacts of these cuts, and raises the taxes and revenues to prevent those cuts, and make sure we can meet the increased needs in California.