Sunday, June 30, 2002


Health Issues Raised In Debate…

The Assembly voted 49-26 Sunday on the budget bill the Senate adopted the day before, falling short of the 2/3 vote needed for final passage. The 2002-03 fiscal year will start July 1st, without a budget in place.

In related news, the Assembly was able to transfer the $1.7 billion in education funds into the new year. An item of contention with Assembly Republicans and formerly in need of a 2/3 vote, the education transfer was passed by the Assembly which found a way, one termed by Assemblyman Cardenas as “creative,” to craft legislation that only required a majority. That bill passed, 48-27. This action prevented the need for an additional $1.7 billion in cuts or revenues for the 2002-03 budget year.

In lengthy debate, Republicans argued for a budget without increased taxes. Assemblyman Richman asked that “a mere 5% belt tightening” more would prevent the need for increased taxes. Assemblyman Runner, like others, argued about the process, calling for a five-way negotiations between the house caucuses and the Administration, saying “I don’t know what to do with a $25 billion deficit. It’s huge.” He said it should be worked out in negotiations, which he indicated, “we aren’t doing it… What happened to the process?”

Of interest to advocates for health care and the uninsured, health issues did come up with regularity, along with education and other issues. Assemblyman Steinberg talked about his dislike of the cuts to a range of areas, including Medi-Cal provider rates and cancer research, along with Healthy Start, housing, and mental health. Assemblywoman Goldberg raised the need for Healthy Families and trauma center funding. Assemblywoman Reyes talked about the people in her district who rely on the funding for key areas, including Medi-Cal and low-performing schools. Assemblywoman Thomson said “I don’t like the fact that mental health programs are now back to the 1970s. We were making progress.” She said that “working families and poor people bear the brunt” of the budget plan, and she disliked the fact that the budget did not ask of “millionaires a little more in income tax” to prevent more of these cuts. The Democrats ultimately said that while they disliked the cuts in the budget document, they felt responsibility to pass a budget.

The issue of quarterly status reports in Medi-Cal came up once again on a full house floor. Assemblyman Campbell, in making a larger argument that the budget includes unnecessary program increases, talked about a decision to expand Medi-Cal to “people who are not eligible. [We will give] more Medi-Cal to people who are not eligible than we did last year, intentionally… budgeted. Why do we even have eligibility [criteria]?” In her close, Assemblywomen Oropeza took time to refute some of Assemblyman Campbell’s assertions, including the QSR issue. She said that the issue was not about eligibility, but about “manipulation” using paperwork to get people off a program. She said that people would fall off Medi-Cal “not because they are ineligible,” but because they would be unable to “fulfill bureaucratic paperwork requirements.” While in these debates, health advocates have had strong champions, the mere fact of debate suggests we have liabilities on this issue.

Anthony E. Wright

Director of Organizing

Health Access

1127 11th St., #234, Sacramento, CA 95814

Ph: 916-442-2308, Fx: 916-497-0921

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