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Budget Battle Over Indigent Care Funds Pits Brown vs Counties

CPR photo/Ben Adler

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks with reporters Wednesday afternoon after addressing the California State Association of Counties legislative conference at a Sacramento hotel.

CPR photo/Ben Adler

One of the biggest unresolved issues in California budget negotiations is what to do with more than $1 billion counties currently spend on health care for the poor.  Governor Jerry Brown says counties won’t need that money once the new federal health law kicks in next year.  But the counties disagree.

The governor had a clear message at Wednesday’s meeting of the California State Association of Counties (CSAC): Since counties want the state to run the upcoming expansion of Medi-Cal, they should give up the money spent on the three million people whose health care the counties will no longer provide. “As we take over your responsibility, we don’t want to pay for what we’re now doing, ’cause that’s paying twice,” Brown says.

But to the counties, it’s not that simple.  Not everyone they currently take care of will shift to Medi-Cal – especially not right away.  “We’re going to negotiate with the governor.  We want to figure out what’s fair.  He’s been a good partner.  We’ll get it figured out.  But we want to make sure we get the right number,” says CSAC Executive Director Matthew Cate.

Cate says there’s plenty of time to figure out the right formula.  The transition to Medi-Cal will likely take a couple of years.


Brown on Budget Talks: "I want $2 billion too. But I Don't Believe It"

Meanwhile, Brown says he hopes to reach a state budget deal by the legislature’s June 15th constitutional deadline.  But several outstanding issues remain between Brown and Democratic legislative leaders, including revenue projections over the next year.

The spending plans put forth by Senate and Assembly Democrats rely on a higher estimate than the governor does.  Brown continued his recent cautious tone when asked about those proposals Wednesday.   “Well, I want $2 billion more, too,” he told reporters.  “But I don’t believe it.  And I’m not willing to bet on capital gains and Wall Street.  We’ve been disappointed too often.”

But the governor avoided any sharp criticism of his Democratic negotiating partners, saying he doesn’t think that would help the process.

Brown says he met with Democratic legislative leaders Wednesday afternoon.

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