Democrats push budget package

February 22, 2010

UPDATED…..The Democrats in the Legislature have sent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a package of budget bills that would trim about $2.3 billion from a projected $20 billion budget shortfall. The lawmakers held back on a complex tax swap involving the gas tax because Schwarzenegger had threatened to veto their version, and they wanted to continue the negotiations. Below is my earlier blog item describing the effect of the package’s key provisions involving health and social service programs:

Democrats in the Legislature will try to push through a series of budget bills that they say will shave roughly $5 billion off the state’s estimated $20 billion budget shortfall this year and next.

The bills largely avoid the kind of deep cuts to health and social service programs recommended by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Instead, the package includes some fund shifts, fee increases, deferrals and a large reduction to spending on health care in the prisons. Even if the package passes and becomes law, however, legislators still will be facing a projected $15 billion shortfall that they will have to address in the coming months.

Here are the key pieces of the package that would affect health and social service programs:

–Delay payments to Medi-Cal providers. The bill recognizes the governor’s authority to delay payments to certain hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, adult day health care centers, home health agencies and mental health inpatient services from June 17 until the start of the new fiscal year in July. This is simply an accounting maneuver for the state, not a real spending cut, but the agencies expected to be paid in June will still have to deal with a cash flow problem as they wait for their delayed payments.

–Continue a 3 percent reductions adopted in past years to most services purchased by Regional Centers that care for people with developmental disabilities, and an identical cut in their operating budgets. The package would also give the centers some flexibility on state rules requiring them to meet staff-to-consumer ratios and have staff or contractors with expertise in criminal justice, special education, family support, housing, community integration and quality assurance.

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