Schwarzenegger goes to Washington to collect $6.9 billion
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Washington Wednesday to lobby for $6.9 billion in federal funds. The governor needs the money to help fill an almost $20 million budget hole and stave off cuts to services.
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“After cutting programs, temporarily raising taxes and instituting reforms in nearly every program in state government to reduce current spending and contain future costs, we must seek permanent relief from unfunded federal mandates and reimbursement formulas that shortchange California taxpayers,” he wrote.Skip to next paragraph
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The single biggest inequity in federal funding, Schwarzenegger says, is the way the federal government calculates the reimbursement rate for the Medicaid program. “Congress pays California a lower rate for its share of the federal Medicaid program than it pays most other state,” he says in his letter, adding, "If Congress simply treated states equally, more than $1.8 billion in California tax dollars could be spent here at home to balance our budget instead of being sent to Florida, New Mexico and Texas to balance theirs.”
In addition, the governor says California is owed $700 million in unpaid reimbursement for Medicare disability determination payments. The reimbursements are owed due to a Social Security Administration error that resulted in the state paying for individuals who should have been covered by Medicare, he says.
Budget in the balance
But these arguments aren’t likely to work, say analysts – and that could put his proposed budget in deep trouble. The governor has said he will be forced to cut some essential services if he doesn't get the money he needs.
“It is hard to underscore the depth of breadth of funding cuts necessary for California to balance its budget without federal funds,” says Ms. Levinson. “The ability of many Californians to obtain food, shelter and medical care certainly hangs in the balance.”
Schwarzenegger’s arguments about inequitable treatment haven’t worked before, says Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, a Sacramento-based, nonpartisan policy research group. “[A]nd there’s no indication that Congress will look more kindly on this approach in 2010.”
“To win the support of Congress, our governor should be going to Washington arm in arm with the 45 other governors who are also facing shortfalls this year,” she says.
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