HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Budget Cuts Update
Monday, August 26, 2002
Still no budget, but negotiations continue and are moving quickly. Here’s an update from weekend developments, as of mid-day Monday:
* DEMOCRATIC PROPOSAL FOR BUDGET COMPROMISE: So far unable to get the support of four Assembly Republicans to pass a budget, Speaker Herb Wesson put forward a compromise proposal on the budget over the weekend to the entire Republican Caucus. The proposal included an additional $200 million cut from the Senate-passed budget, and a spending cap for the 2003 fiscal year.
Details have not been specified at the time of this writing. A $200 million cut (or another additional cut of a higher amount) would most likely involve health care cuts beyond the Senate-passed budget (see scorecard at http://www.health-access.org/scorecard.htm). Given this direction, all proposed cuts in health care and other areas are still on the table, and “in play.”
The Assembly Republicans have stated that they will put forward a counter proposal, but have not done so today. They indicated that they will not propose something different from what they have advocated in the past, including an opposition to all tax increases–necessitating nearly $4 billion in additional cuts.
* EMERGENCY SPENDING GAMESMANSHIP: In an attempt to deflect pressure after weeks of newspaper articles detailing the plight of vendors, service agencies, and individuals adversely affected by the lack of a budget, Assembly Republican Leader Dave Cox proposed an “emergency spending” measure to “allow the state to pay bills for critical health services and education grants.”
When discussed on the Assembly floor, it was amended by the Democratic majority led by Assemblyman Marco Firebaugh to include all departments and services, and passed with support from both parties. The bill was referred to the Assembly Budget Committee, which has yet to meet, or to schedule a meeting time.
The Assembly Republicans held a press conference Monday morning to call for passage of this emergency spending measure. Several senior, religious, health care, and labor organizations sent representatives to respond and point out the irony (if not hypocrisy) of these legislators, who are responsible for the budget being held up in the first place, and whose actions would lead to severe cuts in health care, education, and other services.