Balancing the Budget on the Backs of the Poor, who Rely on Medi-Cal, and Students –
However, the hard part remains, about 13 billion dollars of the 26.6 billion deficit as the legislature did not address either the elimination of redevelopment or the extension to higher taxes.
The budget would cut heavily from education, K-12, Community Colleges, UC and CSU, it would cut funding to prisons and corrections, it would result in employee layoffs and furloughs, and it would cut deeply from transportation.
On the other hand, two weeks ago, there was a legal opinion that confirmed that Democrats can put taxes on the ballot with a majority vote, under very narrow circumstances.
They could extend current taxes very narrowly, in that it would have to “change statutory tax initiatives already passed by voters.” As such, “Any change would have to be consistent” with the “scope or effect” of the initiative.
Reported the Bee, “But the Legislature could not, by majority vote, place a tax on the ballot that is not tied to a pre-existing initiative. The opinion said a court likely would see that as “an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power.”
The Bee also reports, “Democrats have said privately that it would be too difficult and legally risky to carve new taxes into past initiatives. They are seeking a constitutional amendment to extend the tax rates, which requires a two-thirds vote.”
Democrats have rejected this approach and time appears to be about run out on even the possibility.
The Bee writes this morning on the current situation, “Given lawmakers’ reluctance in passing more than $10 billion in cuts this week to state and local programs, it remains to be seen what appetite they have for another round with the carving knife.”
They report that UC and CSU are already scheduled to lose another $500 million in funding, and will determine by June 1 how they will close that gap. Meanwhile, community college students will pay $36 rather than $26 per unit.
Also cut deeply will be Medi-Cal. This is an issue we have not discussed nearly enough.
Anthony Wright, on the Health Access California blog, notes that the legislature approved cuts of $1.6 billion to Medi-Cal.
He writes, “Fully understanding the magnitude of the budget crisis, this is a sad day for California. These cuts will impose costs and reduce access care to over eight million Californians with Medi-Cal or Healthy Families coverage. These severe cuts make it harder for our health system to be there for us when we need it. Because of these cuts passed with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, California is a less healthy, less caring, less secure state tonight.”
He continues, “The impact of these cuts will be significant, to the health of individual families, our health system on which we all rely, and our attempts at economic recovery. At a time of economic distress in California, these cuts will put administrative and financial barriers to care, place greater fiscal strain on families, and turn away hundreds of millions of dollars in federal matching funds for our economy.”
These cuts include a cap on doctor visits, increased costs, a copay on clinic, dental, and pharmacy visits and prescriptions in Medi-Cal. It will eliminate coverage for over-the-counter drugs in Medi-Cal.
This is a point that a lot people do not understand. We have dependent kids in our household who are covered under Medi-Cal. This is greatly going to increase our costs and the costs numerous low income families, who will now not be able to afford a lot of over-the-counter medication.
We have had to take the children to the ER numerous times for a variety of reasons, now there will be a $50 copayment for ER visits. How is a low income family going to afford that? They can’t. So unless the condition is life threatening, these changes are going to force low income families to avoid taking their kids and themselves to doctors and the emergency room.
That will put everyone at risk – particularly those most vulnerable.
—David M. Greenwald reporting