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Trauma-Care Funding Cuts Are Scrapped

Spending: Davis drops plan to slash $25 million from centers as the state faces a huge budget shortfall.

January 03, 2002|JULIE TAMAKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Gray Davis is withdrawing his plan to cut $25 million from the state's trauma-care centers, reflecting the political reality that, even with a $12-billion budget deficit, there is little support for the proposal among lawmakers.

Hoping to make the most of the reversal, Davis plans to announce his decision today at County-USC Medical Center, home to one of 44 trauma-care centers that will benefit from the state money. Los Angeles County has 13 trauma-care centers, which in the last budget year treated 12,788 patients--the most of any county in the state.

News of the Davis decision was greeted with relief by health care advocates.

"The $25 million is not the solution to the funding of our trauma-care system in California, but it definitely was an important Band-Aid to help us get through the next year while we figure out what the longer-term solution will be," said Jan Emerson of the California Healthcare Assn., a state association for hospitals.

Welcome News for Lawmakers

Eliminating money for the trauma-care centers was among $2.24 billion in budget cuts Davis proposed in November as part of his plan to close the estimated $12-billion deficit. Lawmakers from both parties were particularly critical of the trauma-care cut, and on Wednesday they welcomed news of Davis' reversal.

"I'm extremely happy and I think it was very smart," said Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, the Sherman Oaks Democrat who had carried legislation that contained the $25 million in extra funding for trauma-care centers. "When we're looking at making all these budget cuts that could affect health care . . . we have to make sure not to remove the safety net."

"I'm glad the governor is reconsidering that particular spending reduction," added Senate Republican Leader Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga.

"The critical-care system is already on life support. It can't sustain a reduction in funding. In fact, we should have been increasing the funding significantly over the last few years," Brulte said.

Program Delays Are Still Planned

Another Davis proposal that got a cool reception would delay until July a much-heralded $200-million program to rescue the state's lowest-performing schools, at a savings of $30 million to $50 million.

Democratic lawmakers and advocates for the poor have also taken issue with a Davis proposal to delay by nearly two years an expansion of the Healthy Families program, which provides health coverage to poor children. The delay is expected to save $210 million.

There has been no indication that Davis plans to reverse himself on those cuts. Also left on the chopping block is $5 million in seed money for trauma-care planning activities.

The governor's decision to reverse himself on the trauma-care funding comes as he prepares to unveil his 2002-03 budget proposal next week. It is expected to contain a slew of cuts and spending deferrals, in addition to borrowing and refinancing proposals.

In an unrelated development, state Treasurer Phil Angelides is scheduled to outline a plan today to restructure the state's bond debt to ease the budget deficit through 2004.

A report prepared by Salomon Smith Barney suggests that the state could save as much as $2.3 billion over the next two fiscal years by taking advantage of low interest rates to refinance its general obligation bonds.

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Times staff writer Miguel Bustillo contributed to this report.

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