HEALTH ACCESS UPDATE
Saturday, December 6th, 2003
* NO AGREEMENT ON SPENDING CAP & DEFICIT BOND
* LEGISLATURE TO REFOCUS ON PROPOSED CUTS
* MARCH BALLOT STILL CRITICAL FOR HEALTH CARE
* BUDGET ACCOUNTABILTY ACT: Local Meetings & Speaker Trainings
* SB 2 REFERENDUM: Support for the Bill; Against the Repeal
* GOVERNOR FAILS TO GET LEGISLATIVE SUPPORT FOR MARCH BALLOT PROPOSALS
Three-way negotiations–between Governor Schwarzenegger, legislative Republicans, and legislative Democrats–failed to come up with a proposed deficit bond and spending cap to be placed on the March 2004 ballot. Neither Democratic nor Republican proposals that were voted on were able to reach the necessary two-thirds vote.
GOVERNOR’S FLAWED PROPOSALS: Legislative Democrats rejected the Governor’s severely flawed proposals, including a bond proposal included a $15 billion bond that would be paid for over a 15-30 year period with minimum interest payments totaling $23 billion at a rate of 4.72%. His spending cap proposal would have made permanent every cut made to date, plus $10-14 billion more, with no ability to restore those cuts to health care, education, and other vital services in better times. It also included a power grab to grant the Governor unilateral powers not seen since before the Magna Carta, including the ability to rewrite laws with consent of just 1/3 of the legislature.
ALTERNATIVES TRIANGULATED: Legislative Democrats negotiated and offered several alternatives on both proposals, including a $15 billion bond paid over 7 years with significantly lower interest payments totalling $18 billion, and other forms of spending caps and “rainy day” budget reserves. Even if the Governor, who sent many conflicting messages over the week but said he was willing to negotiate and be flexible, was able to come to an agreement with legislative Democrats, it was unclear whether any agreement would get the approval of legislative Republicans, which was needed to get the 2/3 vote for passage.
FUTURE BALLOT EFFORT?: The Governor has threatened to sponsor a campaign to collect the signatures needed to place a spending cap proposal on the ballot–possibly in November 2004–which would then not need legislative approval. Health advocates should be vigilant about such a proposal, which would not only prevent any progress in meeting the health needs of Californians, but force even more severe cuts in basic health services on which all Californians rely. It is worth noting that voters rejected by 54%-46% Governor Pete Wilson’s Proposition 165, “Government Accountability and Taxpayer Protection Act of 1992,” which was a similar, but actually more modest, power grab.
HEARINGS ON CUTS UPCOMING: With the debate on the spending cap postponed for now, legislative attention will return to the Governor’s proposed mid-year cuts. On WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 10th, the Senate Subcommittee #3 on Health and Human Services, chaired by Senator Wes Chesbro, will conduct an informational HEARING from 11:00am to 3:00pm. Public testimony will be taken on the mid-year cuts, including the proposed reduction in Medi-Cal provider rates and the enrollment caps in Healthy Families and several other health programs.[A PROTEST RALLY, sponsored by the CA Coalition of United Cerebral Palsy Associations, will take place right before, on the West Steps (facing L Street) at 10:00am, to protest the proposal to suspend the Lanterman Act and other cuts that would harm people with disabilities and seniors.]
* THE REAL SOLUTION ON THE MARCH BALLOT: PROPOSITION 56, BUDGET ACCOUNTABILITY ACT
Despite the lack of legislative action, there will be significant budget reform on the March 2004, in the form of Proposition 56, the Budget Accountability Act, which is supported by a wide range of organizations, including Health Access California, League of Women Voters, CA Council of Churches, California State PTA, and many other community organizations. For more information, the web site is http://www.budgetaccountabilitynow.org.
BUDGET REFORMS THAT WORK: Proposition 56 includes the creation of a 5% “rainy day” budget reserve, to set aside money in the good times so we don’t have such a problem in the bad times. This and other provisions would actually go a long way to meet Candidate Schwarzenegger’s promise that California “never again” be in such a budget crisis. Clearly, the budget gridlock demonstrated in the past week indicates that the reforms in Budget Accountability Act are needed now as much as ever, despite the change in the Governor’s Office, especially in dealing with the budget debate in 2004.
LOCAL COALITION MEETINGS: Regional “Yes on 56” coalition meetings have been forming, to plan press events and begin the organizing for this major campaign. Health and community advocates are invited to come. To RSVP, contact Cristina Uribe in northern California at 916-443-7817, or Tracy Zeluff in southern California at 213-738-8405.
SAN JOSE: Monday, December 8th, 12noon-1pm, SEIU 715, 2302 Zanker Road, San Jose
LOS ANGELES: Tuesday, December 9th, 3-4pm, SEIU 660, 500 S. Virgil Ave, Los Angeles
EAST BAY: Monday, December 15th, 12noon-1pm, SEIU 250, 560 20th Street, Oakland
SAN DIEGO: Monday, December 15th, 2-3pm, Springfield College, 5348 University Ave, San Diego
SPEAKER TRAININGS: Supporting organizations are invited to involve their staff, leaders, members, and volunteers in becoming trained as speakers on Proposition 56. From learning the most up-to- date campaign message to learning how to deal with tough questions, the trainings are a great way for organizations and individuals to plug in to the campaign. These two-hour sessions are usually held twice, one in the day and usually one in the evening. To RSVP or for more information, contact Jessica Reynolds at 510-450-0101.
SAN DIEGO: Monday, December 8th. Springfield College, 5348 University Ave, 11am & 5:30pm
SAN BERNARDINO: Tuesday, December 9th. Safety Employees Assn, 433 North Sierra Way, 11am & 3pm
SAN JOSE: Wednesday, December 10th. SEIU 715, 2302 Zanker Road. 11am & 5:30pm
OAKLAND: Tuesday, December 16th. First Unitarian Church, 685 14th St, 11am & 5:30pm
SACRAMENTO: Wednesday, December 17th. Central Labor Council, 2840 El Centro Road, 11am & 3pm
FRESNO: Friday, December 19th. 1303 North Rabe Ave. 11am
REFERENDUM TO REPEAL KEY HEALTH CARE BILL (SB 2) TENTATIVELY SET FOR MARCH BALLOT
Beyond Proposition 56, Californians concerned about health care will have another critical reason to VOTE on Tuesday, March 2nd, 2004.
SIGNATURES FILED: Some business interests led by the California Restaurant Association and fast-food interests have submitted 620,000 signatures to place a referendum on SB 2 (Burton) on the March ballot. These groups–misleadingly called Californians Against Government Run Health Care–reportedly spent well over a million dollars in this effort to repeal this recently-passed measure to protect the employer-provided health care of millions of Californians, and to extend such coverage to one million more.
LAWSUIT PENDING: A legal challenge is pending, charging that signatures were collected “based on a false and misleading title and summary.” In particular, the petitions falsely described the bill. Under the bill, employers of 50 or more workers would pay a fee into a state purchasing pool to provide health coverage to workers. They would have the fee waived if–as over 90% of such employers now do–they already provide coverage to their workers. The petition indicated that the bill applied to employers of 20 or more. In fact, employers of 20-49 workers are exempt–until a tax credit can be provided, which is not in law nor is even proposed.
COALITION FORMING: A coalition of organizations representing doctors, consumers, workers, seniors, hospitals, and other health leaders is in planning stages to wage this referendum fight in March. Our health care system is in crisis, and as the strikes in southern California show, even those who have health coverage are in danger of losing it. Some large employers are leading the way in pushing more and more health costs onto individuals, further fragmenting our health system and creating more uninsured. The result of this vote will dictate the future of health care and health care reform.
JOIN THE COALITION: Health Access California invites your organization to say YES to SB 2, and against the repeal of these protections. ATTACHED is a preliminary sign-on fax-back form. Please have your organization sign on to this critical campaign. Campaign meetings will be announced shortly, and more information forthcoming.
Anthony E. Wright
1127 11th St., #234, Sacramento, CA 95814
Ph: 916-442-2308, Fx: 916-497-0921