The good, the bad, and what’s next on the budget…

On the 100th day since its deadline, the California legislature has finally passed a budget. Thanks for those who followed throughout the night on our Twitter account at www.twitter.com/healthaccess

There’s both good and bad news with the new budget.

While the new Budget contains hundreds of millions of dollars of cuts to health care, it appropriately rejects the worst proposals of Governor Schwarzenegger to eliminate and eviscerate key programs, limit prescriptions and doctor visits to Californians needing care, and other draconian ideas.

The Governor’s initial proposal to cut $5.4 billion from basic health care and social services was not accepted. Instead, legislators found other ways to reconcile the $19 billion deficit, avoiding slashing services to California’s most vulnerable families, seniors, children, and people with disabilities. Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, Cal-WORKS, IHSS, and Adult Day Health Care escaped the worst of the budget axe–as did tens of thousands of both public and private sectors jobs that would have been lost under those proposals.

While we appreciate that the legislature prevented some of the worst cuts, this budget leaves health and other vital services at increased risk in the future.

We are concerned about future cuts, in both the short term and longer term, in three ways:

1) We are concerned about the threat of line-item vetoes and additional ‘blue pencil’ reductions for clinics and other services. We don’t want a repeat of last year, when Governor Schwarzenegger made further cuts and even zeroed out some key public health programs and important social services.

The Governor has announced he will make $1 billion in line-item cuts this evening when signing the budget. He should forgo using his line-item authority to make additional cuts to health and human services, and harming California families, our health system, and our state’s economic recovery. An economic recession is exactly the time when we need funding for community clinics and public health programs, for the health of our communities and our economy.

2) This budget lacks new revenues, and in fact provides additional special interest tax breaks, digging our budget hole deeper, which will force additional cuts in the future. Without more revenues coming in, this budget can not be seen as anything but a short term fix. And with additional tax breaks, we’re likely to be back discussing budget shortfalls in the very near future, destined to repeat the same fight to preserve vital services.

3) We are alarmed about the adoption of a 2012 ballot measure for a constitutional spending cap proposal that will handcuff our ability to invest in health and other vital services. Voters rejected Governor Schwarzenegger’s spending caps in 2005 and 2009, and we hope they will again in 2012.

This November, voters have the opportunity to prevent additional cuts with Propositions 21 and 24, and reform the process that gave us this late and flawed budget with Proposition 25. Alternatively, voters could unwittingly make the budget worse, and force additional cuts to health and other vital services, if they allow Propositions 22 and 26 to pass.

Health Access will continue to advocate for both the revenues our health system needs, and the real reforms our budget process needs.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: