California’s Sisyphean Task: The Budget

I’m going to re-emphasize what Anthony was saying in his latest post just because I’m really *really* grouchy about the state of our budget. In the latest iteration of a budget deal, legislative leaders are crowing about the fact that there are no taxes raised, no more *additional* borrowing.

They’re crowing about how there are no cuts to health care “beyond the Conference Committee” budget, which already (as my colleague Anthony points out) leaves more than a quarter-million children without health coverage, increases Healthy Families premiums and continues the paycut to Medi-Cal healthcare providers through next year even while the cut continues to be litigated.

All this leaves me in a foul mood. Why? Because they’ll be at it again next year and they *know* it. We have gone through this exercise nearly every year of this decade and every year we end up in worse shape. The gimmicks allow them to *pretend* to balance the budget in 08-09, but opens up an equivalent (and often larger) hole in 09-10. What’s even more harmful, is it’s a huge distraction that keeps policymakers from advancing the state’s goals.

It means that next year, we’re going to be fighting the same fight — REconvincing lawmakers that trying to take away podiatry services and eyeglasses for people earning $1,000-a-month is a really dumb idea, leaving people sicker and less able to independent. It means we’re going to have to re-remind them that, No, $18,000-a-year income is not enough to allow a person to go buy health insurance on the private market. Yes, it’s actually a really big pain-in-the-ass burden for people whose lives are in constant flux to have to re-convince the State of California that they are still eligible for Medi-Cal every 90 days. Heck – it’s annoying enough to have to renew my driver’s license every five years.

For every minute that we are fighting back those cuts, it’s another minute that we cannot work to advance real health reform — health reform we desperately need that would help all families, by allowing them financial and health security. For every shred of emotional and intellectual energy that we have to use preventing the budget from rolling backwards, it’s energy that we can’t divert to moving our state forward.

Grump, grump, grump. And now for a Dan Walters Column that says it better than I did.

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