The Assembly applauded themselves when they finished their marathon floor session approving a state budget today. The sounds outside the chamber, and outside Sacramento, were not cheers. Here’s some reaction from the health community:
From the California Medical Association:
“This is a devastating blow to the swelling ranks of California’s needy, who are struggling to get through the worst economic crisis in a generation,” said Dr. Dev GnanaDev, president of the California Medical Association. “These cuts dramatically increase the long-term health care costs borne by taxpayers, as the patients shut out of these programs now must turn to costly and overcrowded emergency rooms for care.”
“Leaving children without health care is irresponsible – from both a public health and fiscal point of view,” Dr. GnanaDev said. “Unfortunately, this forces many financially strapped families to choose between taking their kids to the doctor or feeding and clothing them. As a trauma surgeon, I see what happens when preventative care is eliminated; it results in more people getting sick and more people going to the ER.”
From Western Center on Law and Poverty:
“The California Legislature has been steamrolled by Governor Schwarzenegger into sacrificing poor families with children for the sake of political expediency. Whether these cuts were agreed to so the state can repay Prop 98 next decade or were agreed to because the Democrats could not stand the Governor’s heat doesn’t matter. It is shameful, disgraceful and one of the lowest moments in the history of social welfare in California. It is deeply offensive to hear Democratic leadership claim to have “saved the safety net” or that they will undo this in the future. They will never have the votes to restore CalWORKs and they should stop trying to deceive the public about the harm they have done,” said Michael Herald, Western Center on Law & Poverty.
“There is a dark cloud over California today. We may be able to pay our bills in the short term but the bill will come due from the budget passed today which will cause human suffering, hunger, and sickness. Hundreds of thousands of children in California will lose health coverage. While other states also facing budget shortfalls are expanding their health programs, we are turning our backs on those in need,” said Elizabeth Landsberg, Western Center on Law & Poverty.
From the California Labor Federation
“The state budget package passed today is the shame of California. The deep, unnecessary cuts included in this budget will turn the current economic storm battering families into a Category Five hurricane.” said Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, California Labor Federation.
“With this budget, the Governor and Legislature failed miserably in their primary duty to protect California families. The most painful part of this budget deal is that the catastrophic cuts to education, health care, public safety, state workers and programs for children, seniors and the disabled could have been avoided.”
“The refusal by the Governor and Republican leadership to even consider popular revenue sources like a tobacco tax or oil severance fee created the roadmap to the disastrous budget we’re now saddled with. The accounting gimmicks the budget deal includes scuttle any hope of long-term fiscal stability. This is not a budget of shared sacrifice; the hardship falls disproportionately on low- and middle-income families.
“At every turn along the winding road that led to this budget, the Governor sided with wealthy special interests at the expense of working families. When given the choice to support a tobacco tax or eliminate children’s health care, he sided with Big Tobacco. When given the choice to lay off thousands of teachers, firefighters and police or tax Big Oil, he sided with Big Oil. When given the choice to close corporate tax loopholes or gut job-creating infrastructure projects, he sided with wealthy corporations.
“It’s never been clearer that our system needs reform. We need to eliminate the ludicrous two-thirds majority rule that allows a small minority of ideologues to hold the state budget hostage to their narrow demands. We need to fix the state’s outdated tax system to ensure that the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share. And we need new sources of revenue to ensure important programs in education, health care and other areas are adequately funded.
From Children’s Defense Fund:
“While legislators speak about a budget that “shares the pain” they have chosen to abandon the next generation. Low income children who turn age six and would normally be enrolled in the healthy families program will be placed on a waiting list for health coverage.” said Deena Lahn of the Children’s Defense Fund of California.
“Elementary school students who benefited from a low student teacher ratio will have larger classrooms and less time to learn. Children and families who have received minimal cash assistance will have a greater likelihood of being homeless. Youth who expected reasonably priced and high quality higher education in the CSU system will be out of luck.”
“Legislators agreed to all this and more to avoid doing anything on revenues, including closing corporate tax loopholes or imposing an oil severance fee.”
From Health Access California:
“This budget is a tragedy for all Californians.” said Anthony Wright, executive director, Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “For low-income children, pregnant women, or Californians of all incomes denied private insurance at any price due to pre-existing conditions, these legislators have closed the door to their last and only option for health care coverage.”
“This budget shreds our state’s safety net. As with other programs, Healthy Families will exist in name, but be a shadow of its former self, shuttered and actively kicking kids off coverage. Someone should ask the hundreds of thousands of families of those children who will be denied health care coverage about the state of our safety net,” said Wright.
“California has better choices than to deny coverage to hundreds of thousands of children, or to make these devastating cuts to the health system on which we all rely,” said Wright. “While there were no good choices in this budget crisis, these were the worst possible choices for our children, for our health system, and for our economy. The agreement of a budget like this is not a cause of celebration, but of embarrassment and shame for California.” said Wright.