The California Legislature is getting back to work today with a long to-do list, including some pressing unfinished business from last year. Plugging a billion-dollar hole in the state’s health care program for the poor and fixing the state’s deteriorating roads are at the top of the agenda.
Gov. Jerry Brown called special sessions of the Legislature last year to address the shortfall in the Medi-Cal system and an estimated $59 billion backlog in road repairs. But the governor and lawmakers never came close to reaching a deal on either issue.
A tax that would help pay for a big expansion of Medi-Cal since the introduction of Obamacare will expire in June, and so far lawmakers have been unable to agree on an extension or an alternative funding source. Because of a cut in reimbursement rates, the state is also faced with a shortage of doctors willing to treat Medic-Cal patients. Raising those rates to get more physicians into the program will be discussed in the current session.
As for roads, a proposal by Brown to raise billions of dollars for repairs at the end of the last legislative session failed to gain any traction. Republicans have rejected the idea of new fees and taxes, saying that savings should be found in other areas of the budget to pay for road work.
In addition to those issues, the Legislature is expected to take on climate change, the drought, income inequality and gun control in the coming months.
There is some good news awaiting lawmakers in Sacramento. The state is on its most solid fiscal footing in years. Revenues came in $3.6 billion ahead of estimates for 2015, and California ended the year with $12 billion in its rainy day fund.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s initial budget for the next fiscal year is due by Jan. 10th.