California meltdown

A biweekly flyover of the state budget crisis

Will there be Christmas cheer in the State Capitol this year? Not likely, given the condition of the budget. Read on:

Dec. 8: The Sacramento Bee reports that United Ways of California has issued a report stating that 30 percent of California’s households lack the income to cover “bare bones” living expenses. The most hurting counties: Glenn, Colusa, Tehama and Trinity, with “income adequacy rates” of 43 percent.

Dec. 8: The California HealthCare Foundation releases a study showing that since 2002 the cost of health-care insurance in California has risen five times as fast as the overall cost of living. Insurance has gone up by 117.5 percent, while the cost of living has gone up by 23.1 percent.

Dec. 9: The Los Angeles Times reports that, because of an archaic computer system, some 117,000 Californians haven’t received their unemployment checks. The 30-year-old system reportedly isn’t programmed to recognize payment extensions authorized by legislation President Obama signed on Nov. 6.

Dec. 9: The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports that, because of the Employment Development Department’s computer problems, many unemployment-insurance recipients are unable to pay their rents and are becoming homeless.

Dec. 10: In his monthly report, State Controller John Chiang notes that November’s revenue receipts were below estimates by only $40.8 million, or 0.7 percent. For the fiscal year beginning July 1, revenues are running $835 million below budget estimates, or -2.8 percent. That’s been offset by lower expenses, however, plus $1 billion in borrowing, giving the state $610 million more in cash on hand than expected as of Nov. 30.

Dec. 13: A Sacramento Bee investigation reveals that heavy use of overtime and an over-reliance on temporary workers are contributing greatly to inadequate care and ballooning costs in the prison health-care system.

Dec. 14: The Assembly Budget Committee, many of whose members recently voted to put an $11 billion water bond measure on the November 2010 ballot, opens a hearing into the state’s rising cost of debt service. Currently it’s 7 percent, but it’s predicted to reach 10 percent by 2014-15.

Dec. 14: The Los Angeles Times reports that federal health officials are casting doubt on the last-gasp funding scheme passed by the Legislature on Sept. 2 to save the Healthy Families health-care insurance program for low-income children. The funding measure doesn’t pass regulatory muster, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has said.

Dec. 16: The Sacramento Bee reports that 21 members of California’s congressional delegation have sent a letter to state health officials expressing deep concern about a new policy that would make low-income women in their 40s ineligible for mammograms and cut off new enrollments between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2010. The services were reduced to save $16 million.

Dec. 17: The state can’t require prison officers to work on furlough days, for which they don’t get paid, with the notion they can take the time off later, an Alameda County Superior Court judge rules. That means some 40,000 guards will be due their full pay for time worked.

Dec. 18: In a bit of good news, the CMS reverses course, notifies California officials it won’t make a final decision on Healthy Families until mid-2010.