HEALTH BUDGET CUTS UPDATE

Saturday, June 29, 2002

SENATE PASSES BUDGET PLAN

Assembly To Consider

With the required 27 votes, the Senate passed a budget Saturday afternoon. Senator Steve Peace broke it down as a budget plan that solves a $24 billion budget hole with $13 billion in spending cuts and $3.6 billion in increased revenues (with the remainder of the budget hole bridged with transfers, deferrals, and borrowing, such as the securitization of the tobacco settlement.) The Assembly is scheduled to come in Sunday, but it is unclear at this writing if or when they would pass a budget, or what it would look like.

The votes came from all Democrats and Senator Maurice Johannessen (R-Redding), who spoke forcefully for the plan as “the best budget we can possibly put out.” He asked his Republican colleagues “what would you like to cut?” as he suggested that the only alternative was to “decimate” key programs such as rural law enforcement, or simply to say “to hell with schools.”

TAXES: Republican Senators attacked the plan: “People are not engaged in torchlight parades demanding their taxes get raised,” said Senator Ross Johnson (R-Irvine). The increased revenues included an increased tobacco tax, and a partial restoration of the vehicle license fee for one calendar year.

HEALTH TRAILER: The omnibus health care trailer bill (AB 442) passed by the same one-vote margin, with minimal debate, with Republican Senators Haynes, McClintock, and Brulte making comments. McClintock specifically attacked Healthy Families as a “bureaucracy,” arguing that the money should have been used instead for prepaid, refundable tax credits for health insurance. Senator Peace reminded them that passing the trailer bill would reduce spending on health care, or otherwise such spending would automatically go up.

QSRs AND MEDI-CAL FRAUD: The Senate also took up AB 925 which dealt with Medi-Cal reporting. When the Conference Committee removed the requirement for Quarterly Status Reports (QSRs), it wanted to make sure to maintain the requirement that Medi-Cal recipients must reports changes in their income within ten days. AB 925 continues the 10-day requirement (previous legislation would have lifted the requirement on enactment of the Healthy Families parent expansion.) Senator Raymond Haynes argued for the reinstatement of quarterly status reports. Senator Jackie Speier argued that the real Medi-Cal fraud was in durable medical equipment, providers, and other areas, and not with the handful of families that may get health care yet are a few dollars over the federal poverty limit.

Senator Peace needed to explain the bill, and the issue of quarterly status reports, several times on the Senate floor. It originally got the same 27 votes that supported the budget, but Senator Brulte asked additional questions about the bill. Ultimately, he concluded that “this will results in savings to the state, but not as much” as they could get or would want as with QSRs. Senator John Burton interjected that the problem with QSRs is that they may “be in violation of federal law.” Ultimately, the bill passed 37-2, with the issue of QSRs being one of the few and of the last specific provisions of the budget to be discussed on the full Senate floor.

Senator Burton announced that the Senate was in recess until 1:30pm on August 5th. It was unclear what action may be taken if the Assembly passes a different version of the budget, as it is likely to do, if it does so at all.



Anthony E. Wright

Director of Organizing

Health Access

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

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

awright@health-access.org

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

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