Budget Subcommittee Spotlight: April 27, 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Below is a summary of some subcommittee activity from the past week:

Subcommittee #1 (Education)

Portantino (D-Los Angeles) Chair, Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), Jackson (D-Santa Barbara)

The Education subcommittee did not meet this week.

Subcommittee #2 (Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy and Transportation)

Wieckowski (D-Fremont) Chair, Nielsen (R-Tehama), McGuire (D-Santa Rosa), Mendoza (D-Cerritos)

Motorists to Fund More Environmental Programs:  Once again motorists will be asked to pay more fees for programs that do not directly benefit them or improve their lives.  The subcommittee heard several proposals from the Air Resources Board to spend $271 million to create an Environmental Justice Unit, prepare a Greenhouse Gas Scoping Plan Update, fund a Near Zero Emission Clean Truck and Bus Program, and build a new engine emissions testing and research facility. The money would come from the fees motorists pay for driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations.  Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) pointed out that these fees were increased last year to close budget deficits created from past overspending, and that these new spending requests would likely lead to higher costs for drivers in the next few years.  The subcommittee approved all of the proposals on party-line votes of 3-1 (with Senator Nielsen voting No), but left the new engine emission testing facility item open for further discussion.

Subcommittee #3 (Health and Human Services)

Pan (D-Sacramento) Chair, Stone (R-Temecula) Monning (D-Santa Cruz)

Medi-Cal: Low Payments Mean Low Access to Care:  Highlighting the problems that can occur when politicians run health care, doctors, dentists and other medical providers testified that the Medi-Cal program’s payment rates are so low that many providers can’t afford to see patients, creating a critical lack of access to care for many low-income individuals.  This problem has been made worse in recent years by the dramatic increase in the number of individuals enrolled in Medi-Cal.  Senator Jeff Stone (R-Riverside County) questioned the Department of Health Care Services about its thinking “quantitatively, not qualitatively” in that although recipients may have health coverage on paper, it means nothing if they can’t access a doctor or dentist.  The solution, as outlined by Senator Stone, is to invest in our “medical infrastructure” by increasing provider rates to create an incentive to serve the Medi-Cal population.  Senator Stone also criticized the governor’s budget proposal to cut $100 million that was supposed to pay for more doctor residency slots in underserved rural areas of the state.  The items were left open for votes at a later date. 

Subcommittee #4 (State Administration and General Government)

Roth (D-Riverside) Chair, Wilk (R-Antelope Valley), Glazer (D-Orinda)

Housing Crisis Continues in California:  The subcommittee heard testimony from the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) on the recent statewide assessment of housing needs in California.  The administration’s report paints a disheartening picture:  the state needs 180,000 new homes annually but production falls far short at only 80,000, creating a major shortage that drives up the cost of housing for Californians.  While HCD admits this problem is one of the most critical facing the state, the governor’s budget does not include a specific plan to address the crisis.  Instead, the governor outlines “guiding principles” that include avoiding the use of General Fund for any future programs, reducing the cost of building housing through streamlining construction, and incentivizing local governments to meet housing goals.  Senator Scott Wilk (R-Antelope Valley) urged the governor to “be bold and lead” in the area of curbing abuse of environmental laws while considering a “broader strategy that can unleash the private sector” and increase housing across the state.  Senate Republicans support reforms that include cutting red tape, reducing building costs and incentivizing local governments to build.  In order for the state to meet the annual need a multi-pronged approach will be necessary to bring housing within reach of lower- and middle-income Californians, who are currently priced out.  Enabling more housing opportunities will improve residents’ quality of life while stimulating the state’s economy at the same time.

Subcommittee #5 (Corrections, Public Safety, and the Judiciary)

Skinner (D-Berkeley) Chair, Anderson (R-San Diego), Beall (D-San Jose)

Federal Prison Receiver Needs Accountability: The state continues to make progress in reclaiming responsibility for providing inmate medical care after more than a decade of management by a federal court-appointed “Receiver” who was charged with fixing the state’s prison medical system. The Governor has proposed more than $24 million to improve the delivery of medical care at all of the state’s 35 prisons, but just a week ago, the Inspector General described the care provided at the Receiver’s recently completed billion-dollar prison hospital as “barely adequate”.[1]  Senate Republicans believe the Receiver needs to explain why the facility he designed, built, staffed, and currently operates is not performing as well as some of the institutions that have already been delegated back to the state. The subcommittee voted 3-0 to approve the Governor’s proposals.

You can view the agendas for this week’s budget subcommittee hearings here.

 

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 [1] Office of the Inspector General, California Health Care Facility Medical Inspection Results, Cycle 4, April 19, 2017, http://oig.ca.gov/media/reports/MIU/CYCLE4/CHCF_Medical_Inspection_Report_Cycle_4.pdf