On Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and Democratic legislators announced a fiscal year 2012-2013 budget deal that would shift children out of the state's Children's Health Insurance Program and reduce spending on its welfare-to-work program, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The deal comes about a week after legislative Democrats sent Brown a $92.1 billion state spending plan that aimed to avoid deep cuts to safety-net programs for low-income residents (Yamamura, Sacramento Bee, 6/22).
Details of the Budget Deal
The new budget deal would:
- Eliminate Healthy Families -- California's CHIP -- and move the 880,000 children enrolled in the program to Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program;
- Reduce state child care assistance by 8.7%, which would reduce the number of slots available to low-income families by 10,600;
- Phase in a two-year time limit for new beneficiaries to find work under CalWORKs, the state's welfare-to-work program; and
- Require higher graduation rates for colleges and universities to qualify for state college aid and reduce financial aid to college students (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/21).
Brown dropped his proposal to cut In-Home Supportive Services workers' hours by 7%. Instead, lawmakers agreed to keep a 3.6% cut that already is in place (Harmon, San Jose Mercury News, 6/21).
Overall, the new budget agreement involves a slightly lower spending level than the $92.1 billion general fund plan that legislators approved last week (Herdt, Ventura County Star, 6/21).
The deal relies on voters approving a compromise tax hike initiative supported by Brown that would raise sales and income taxes on high-income residents. If the ballot measure is not approved, deeper budget cuts could be triggered (Lin, AP/U-T San Diego, 6/21).
Brown in a statement said, "This agreement strongly positions the state to withstand the economic challenges and uncertainties ahead." He added, "We have restructured and downsized our prison system, moved government closer to the people, made billions in difficult cuts" (Medina, New York Times, 6/21).
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said Democratic legislators "were able to find middle ground with the governor that we believe minimizes the impact on people in need, while at the same time assures significant ongoing savings" (Megerian, Los Angeles Times, 6/21).
However, Republican lawmakers expressed frustration that they were not included in the budget negotiations and that there will not be much time to evaluate the plan before lawmakers vote on it next week.
Assembly member Martin Garrick (R-Solana Beach) said, "I am outraged that I am not able to effectively review the details of the budget plan that I am expected to vote on," adding, "The lack of transparency with this budget is embarrassing to our state and our democracy" (AP/U-T San Diego, 6/21).
Reaction From Health Care Advocates
Meanwhile, health care advocates have expressed concern over the effects of the budget deal.
James Hay, president of the California Medical Association, in a statement said, "What the governor has proposed will undoubtedly ensure that [Healthy Families beneficiaries] have a harder time getting access to care" (Los Angeles Times, 6/21).
Peter Manzo, president and CEO of United Ways of California, said, "Shifting all those children out of a popular, successful program, with no guarantee that they'll actually have access to providers, is an unprecedented and reckless move" (Ventura County Star, 6/21).
Norma Forbes -- executive director of Fresno Healthy Communities Access Partners -- said the effect of shifting children from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal "will be determined in the details of the transfer." She said, "There must be minimal disruption to children's care and equitable access to care for them" (Anderson, Fresno Bee, 6/21).
The Senate and Assembly are scheduled to hold votes on the budget deal next week (Capitol Weekly, 6/21).
Brown is expected to sign the set of budget bills in time for the July 1 start of the new fiscal year (Ventura County Star, 6/21).
Headlines and links to broadcast coverage of the budget agreement reached by Brown and lawmakers are provided below:
For more details on the budget deal's plan to shift children from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal, see today's Capitol Desk post.