Show us the money

When state Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley), a dyed-in-the-wool fiscal conservative, believes budget cuts are unfair, you know they probably are. And that’s just what he thinks of the $544 million reduction in Medi-Cal reimbursement rates the California Legislature sent to the governor last week as part of its $2 billion emergency budget cutting package.

Aanestad is an oral surgeon by profession, so he understands health-care issues. As the Los Angeles Times reported he said on the floor of the Senate, “Today’s action means doctors will simply stop seeing [poor] patients.” It’s also self-defeating, since the money comes with a federal match: For every dollar cut, the state loses two dollars in matching funds.

Lawmakers needed to act quickly, or the state was going to run out of money this fiscal year. In addition to cutting Medi-Cal, lawmakers reduced school funding and froze unspent funds saved under a fiscal emergency the governor declared last month. Otherwise, they engaged in the same old shell game, authorizing some $3.3 billion in borrowing voters approved years ago and delaying $1.5 billion in debt service.

That still leaves a 2008-09 shortfall that could top $15 billion. Republicans insist it’s possible to cut that much out of the budget. To which we say: Show us the money. Tell us what you want to cut. Otherwise, it’s time to start talking about judicious tax hikes and ending loopholes (sales tax on yachts, anyone?) so we can balance the budget once and for all.