Sacramento special session tackles heath care, infrastructure funding, etc.

A series of clashes marked the two special legislative sessions tacked on this summer to address some of California’s more stubborn challenges.

Road constructionAdding to the controversy of potential tax increases designed to fund infrastructure and health care entitlements, some lawmakers seized the opportunity to reintroduce pet projects, at least one of which lacks much prospect of getting past Gov. Jerry Brown.

“Lawmakers, he said, should bring him new plans for financing public health care and road repairs, problems that have festered for years,” as the Los Angeles Times observed. “But he could get much more than he bargained for as lawmakers from both parties seize an opportunity to push a raft of tangential and even unrelated measures. Some would not provide a single dollar toward the governor’s objectives of filling potholes and boosting money for health care programs.”

Raising taxes

Brown had hoped to finish off the legislative season in about four weeks’ time. But in addition to the specter of old, reintroduced bills, he has struggled with Republican opposition to the core of his plans. Having lost their supermajorities, Democrats must borrow strength from Republicans; hikes in taxes and fees require a vote from two thirds of the legislature — Assembly and state Senate alike.

Democrats have lined up behind new infrastructure spending, drawn from higher gas taxes and automotive fees, and new Medi-Cal spending, fueled by costlier tobacco taxes and health insurance. But Republicans, at least some of whom must throw their weight behind the schemes, have balked. Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff complained that Democrats just negotiated a budget that left those items by the wayside.

“They’re coming back and saying, we spent that money, $10 billion unanticipated revenue, and here, Republicans — we need your votes now to tax more,“ Huff said, according to Capital Public Radio. “And they knew we wouldn’t want to do that.”

Assembly Minority Leader Kristin Olsen, CPR added, warned that Republicans already identified some $6 billion in existing funds for infrastructure, and threw cold water on the prospect that Sacramento would agree on a Medi-Cal package this year.

On the other hand, at least some Republicans “have indicated they’re open to hiking the gas tax for the first time in more than 20 years — but only if the money is restricted to transportation improvements,” the San Jose Mercury News indicated. And Huff claimed, Republicans weren’t “willing to talk about that until we nail down the transportation funds that are currently being done,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

While Brown faced the test of imposing tax increases without voter approval, Republicans confronted a more intense variety of the same problem with their constituents. Hoover Institution fellow Bill Whalen, a former aide to Gov. Pete Wilson, told the Mercury News that “Republicans who fear the end of their careers will need talking points that clearly articulate why the tax benefits their districts. Voting for taxes isn’t exactly a ticket to longevity in these districts. They have a lot at stake.”

Old ghosts

Adding to the tension, a barrage of largely unwanted legislation has been reintroduced, threatening to stymie Brown’s sessions and objectives even more than negotiations likely will. Among the second-chance bills, the Times reported, “backers reintroduced a stalled proposal to let doctors help terminally ill patients end their own lives by prescribing lethal doses of drugs. Other lawmakers are trying to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 and rein in the use of electronic cigarettes,” while still others want more mass transit, a bridge-specific lane opening, and a ban on research-driven fetal tissue sales.

Brown has already proven unable to help himself from criticizing some of the moves. Through spokeswoman Deborah Hoffman, Brown admonished the Legislature’s right-to-die advocates, insisting “the session is not the appropriate venue to consider the issue. A better approach would be to reconsider previous legislation next year that is now stalled,” Hoffman said, according to the Associated Press.

6 comments

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  1. Dork
    Dork 21 August, 2015, 06:17

    new plans for financing public health care and road repairs”

    I fail to see why this is so difficult, sounds like a no brainer to me:

    ALL Persons that can be classifies as a “Public Employee” or a “Retired Public Employee”, SHALL purchase their own Health Insurance from the California Covered Health Insurance Exchange.

    All Taxpayer Monies that were used for Health Insurance for Public Employees or Retiree’s, SHALL be exclusively used for Infrastructure REPAIRS.

    Problem Solved OVERNIGHT. What’s Next?

    Reply this comment
    • Ulysses Uhaul
      Ulysses Uhaul 21 August, 2015, 09:19

      Just look at roads in the tourist toilet San Diego. San Bernardino mountain roads on verge of collapse….bend over and pay…

      Reply this comment
  2. Sean
    Sean 21 August, 2015, 09:09

    California’s financial picture improved dramatically over the last 4 years due to the run up in stop prices and it’s reliance on the super rich (who use money to make money) for more than half of the state’s income taxes. Has anyone been watching the financial markets lately. Income may still be good through 2015 as the rich take profits before stocks fall further but prospects for 2016 are likely not too good. Add that on the sunset clauses of Prop 30 where at the end of 2016 the supplemental sales taxes go away and 2 years later the supplemental income tax is gone. It sounds like the legislature is using the poor conditions of the roads to motivate people to find a replacement for the supplemental sales tax terminating in 2016. I wonder what they’ll do to replace the income taxes in 2018?

    Reply this comment
  3. Fedup with Gov't
    Fedup with Gov't 21 August, 2015, 09:32

    Being a moderate member of the GOP i agree with the infrastructure enhancements with a notable exception…Gov Brown’s bullet train to nowhere. Fix the roads, deliver what you promised and do not raise my taxes. Tax my hybrid? Increase my gasoline tax? Increase my vehicle registration fee? Please! Get a grip Ca legislators, cut the fat at Cal Trans, stop spending billions on a train .03% of the population will use and do your jobs or we, the electoral will do something about it. You guys are making a very strong case for shorter term limits…

    Reply this comment
    • Ulysses Uhaul
      Ulysses Uhaul 21 August, 2015, 13:13

      Patience doomwhats…..Newsie is waiting in the wings to gather all these tax/fee thingees for redistribution after Jerry is our President……

      Reply this comment
  4. bob
    bob 23 August, 2015, 15:41

    Colliefornia (as Ahnode calls it) had the highest gas taxes in the country and yet has the worst roads.

    http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/dan-walters/article31909365.html

    And you idiots are going to let the DemoNcrat criminals in Suckramento steal even more of your money for the promise of road improvement.

    Reply this comment

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