SACRAMENTO–Today the Governor presented his revised budget for 2019-20 and overall I’m encouraged by many of his proposals; however, I do have some concerns. Here are some of the issues I believe are critical for our state and also for the people in the district I represent.
In the area of health care, I support the Governor proposing to reinstate the penalty for the individual mandate within the Affordable Care Act that was removed by Congress and the Trump administration. The need for the individual mandate will return diversity to the risk pool, which contributes to the affordability of Covered California premiums. The funds collected through this penalty will be used to help increase premium subsidies and even increase the number of people who qualify for subsidies, allowing more people with middle incomes to afford coverage; however, reintroducing the penalty cannot be successful without additional cost-savings efforts. My goal is to make purchasing coverage more do-able than paying the penalty. And to get there, we have to continue to tackle affordability and cost containment.
The Governor did not include in his budget an extension of the MCO tax, a tax on managed care organizations. This tax, which generates $1.5 billion in state revenue and expires this year, needs to be continued. I will advocate for Governor Newsom to submit a federal waiver request to continue it and am pleased that Assembly leadership supports that.
Public health is all about prevention and investing in it is critical, not only for the public it serves to protect from adverse health issues, but it is also a prudent use of resources that saves money in treatment costs.
I support the Governor adding $40 million to the budget to support fighting infectious diseases, primarily sexually transmitted diseases, and this is very important to local public health departments.
The opioid crisis continues and must be addressed on many fronts and I support the $70 million the Governor has allocated for medically assisted treatment within the correctional system to treat substance use disorder so that when people who have been incarcerated are better able to cope with the other challenges they will face upon release.
All of these issues show how important it is to protect funding for public health programs and that’s why I am concerned that the Governor may divert some public health funds to support portions of his Parents Agenda. There is no question that families feel the pinch of working and paying for child care and that we should increase the Earned Income Tax Credit. There’s no question that we should remove the sales tax on diapers and menstrual products as I do – it unfairly targets women and low-income families – but I can’t support using existing public health dollars to pay for it – we need to find another way.
How we support the victims and their families, prevention activities and rebuilding efforts after the wildfires that devastated our state is one of my major priorities.
I was pleased to see that the Governor has maintained the $200 million annual funding in the budget to support healthy forest and prescribed fire and fuel reduction activities and it was encouraging to hear the Governor express general support today for my bill AB 38, which establishes a $1 billion fund to help homeowners harden their homes and property against fire. This is a serious priority for me. This week was Wildfire Preparedness Week and the Governor has shown his concern for preventing future disasters, so I hope he agrees that finding the funds for this one-time budget ask is absolutely appropriate in a year when revenues are healthy.
We all know how desperate we are for new and affordable housing, only made worse by the devastation caused by the wildfires. Only 77,000 units were built last year when we need hundreds of thousands more. I was pleased that the Governor recognizes that one of the barriers local cities and counties experience is the need for funds to build the infrastructure, like water and sewer lines, to support new housing, so the money he is making available for that purpose will be very welcomed.
In the area of education, I am very supportive of the Governor’s commitment to vocational education and the allocation of $72.5 million for this purpose. We also have a housing and homelessness crisis at our CSUs and appreciate the funding he has allocated to begin to address the challenges students are facing.
Although I was pleased to hear about the development of a Master Plan for early learning, I am concerned that he did not mention a Master Plan for Aging, which he promised in his January inaugural speech. I will push for that as a priority because we must have a plan to address issues of aging because that is California’s largest growing population and we have a significant number of vulnerable seniors who need our support.
We will begin the process of reconciling our priorities with the Governor’s and I look forward to better understanding the details in the coming weeks as we finalize the 2019-20 budget.
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