County officials wary that long-term savings will materialize
By Michael Gardner7:06 p.m.May 15, 2013
California’s counties are leery of Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget maneuver to immediately siphon money from local coffers, leaving behind an IOU that would be repaid through savings realized much later.
San Diego County officials are among the skeptics, given the strained fiscal relationship historically between the state and local governments. The county, based on an early review, has $40 million on the line over the next few years.
Brown argues that overall counties will save as much as $300 million immediately — and $1.3 billion annually in three years — when thousands of low-income Californians become eligible for subsidized health care starting Jan. 1 under the new federal Affordable Care Act.
In a complicated move, Brown wants to quickly lower by a like amount state payments to counties for welfare programs, such as CalWORKS and child care. That would force the counties to shift health care savings to pay a bigger share of those programs.
Without the money swap, Brown reasons, the state would be paying twice for the same health care service: once to counties and again as part of its obligation under the federal program, also known as “Obamacare.”
“There are going to be costs imposed on the state budget. Those costs represent burdens taken away from the counties … We feel it’s only fair the counties not be paid for what they’re not doing,” Brown said.
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