In an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) said that he would try again to pass legislation to overhaul the state's health care system and that he would not reduce the scale of his plan to get it approved, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports.
Schwarzenegger last year negotiated a $14.7 billion health care package with Democratic leaders, led by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D), but the measure failed in a Senate committee because of financing concerns. State Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata (D) and other senators had said it would be irresponsible for the state to take on a costly new program with a looming budget crisis. Schwarzenegger on Monday projected the state budget deficit at between $15 billion and $20 billion through June 2009.
Schwarzenegger in the interview said that he is obligated to try to make health care available to an estimated 5.1 million uninsured state residents. He said his staff is working to resolve problems in the previous plan, but he will not break the plan apart to address only children's health or problems with Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program. Schwarzenegger said, "Now we'll try again. We will continue on, keeping the stakeholders together, fine-tuning it and seeing if we can improve on it since we have the time now, then be back again. We feel very confident."
He said that a Field Poll released this week showing that nearly three-quarters of state voters supported the basic concept of Schwarzenegger's plan will give new momentum to the proposal. "I think that will inspire everyone here that we were on the right track, that those that had doubts, that those that used the budget as an excuse for not passing it ... that we were doing the right thing and they were wrong," Schwarzenegger said in the interview (Williams, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 4/30).