So what’s holding up the budget now?

With the state awash in money from the recent housing and technology boom, what games are being played by the minority party to hold up the budget and keep the legislature–both sides– from an on-time budget and a claim of bipartisanship success? The answer is the immigration/race card, and as reported by current Assembly Budget Committee Chair, John Laird (D Santa Cruz), the Republicans have come unglued over a provision that would provide health care for all California’s children within the next couple years.
Assemblymember Laird has an excellent piece in Monday’s California Progress Report that addresses the main points in the budget proposal. We asked him to write a piece for Speak Out California that hones in on the political gamesmanship with the budget and what excuse the Republicans found to avoid early and bipartisan approval—where even the Governor was in agreement (at least initially before he started his flip-flopping of agreeing to it before disagreeing to it). As we print this article,we’re hearing noises from the Senate Democrats of possible capitulating in order to get the budget resolved. Nonetheless, it is helpful for Californians to get a sense of just how California’s archaic budget process operates under the political microscope.
In my post the other day, I talked about how the requirement of a 2/3 vote was a critical structural reform in California to get our state in line with the 47 other states that require a simple majority to pass a budget. Here’s a current example of the reason why this is the kind of reform we need in our state as illustrated by the gamesmanship being played by the Republicans and reported by Budget Chair John Laird exclusively for Speak Out California:

“Childrens’ Health-Republican Attacks on Undocumenteds Dominate Last Minute Budget Debate”
“Legislative Democrats have proposed covering all California kids with health insurance by the 2008-09 budget years. There are 800,000 kids in California without health insurance. The totatl cost to provide them health insurance would be $300 million in a $101 billion budget. 88% of these kids are legal residents or citizens of California, 12% are undocumented. The Governor proposed providing $22 million to the eighteen counties that provide health insurance to all kids, to keep those counties’ programs-which provide health insurance to all people regardless of their legal status-from having to turn away kids.
Legislative Republicans have flipped out over this proposal. Ignoring the 88% of kids who have no health insurance and are here legally, they have made the issues “services to illegal aliens”. Assemblymember Chuck DeVOre has said that the total cost of the care for undcoumented kids would reach $500 million. Senator Dennis Hollingsworth inferred in conference committee that Democrats were proposing coverage that made it easier for undocumented kids to get coverage over documented kids.
As I told the San Francisco Chronicle, ‘An epidemic doesn’t make its way through a school, stoppping at kids that are either documented or undocumented. We see it as a public health issue. We shouldn’t put physicians in the position of being immigration officers.’
Every candidate says that they are running to help kids, because kids are the future. Some support that position right up to the roll call on helping all kids get health care.”

The debate continues in earnest and Assemblymember Laird and others will be working to resolve the issues and pass the budget before the new fiscal year begins July 1, 2006. Let’s see what other excuses or “moral priorities” are invoked by the opposition to avoid their constitutional responsibilities.