Steinberg backs kids’ health measure in 2010

It looks as if no matter how the battle over children’s health insurance goes in the next few weeks in the Legislature, state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is preparing for a whole different scenario next year at the ballot box.

Days after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed to abolish the Healthy Families Program (which would entail booting more than 900,000 California kids out of health insurance), Steinberg’s Committee for a New Economy on Monday made a $75,000 contribution to Californians for Children’s Health — a sizable cash infusion for a committee that previously had only about $20,000 in its coffers.

The statement of organization for Californians for Children’s Health says the group – for which a Web site is under construction – exists to support “expansion of children’s health coverage,” and its sponsoring organizations include the Children’s Defense Fund Action Council; the Children’s Partnership, a project of the Tides Center; Children Now; and PICO California. Its CFO is PICO California director Jim Keddy; its secretary is Kelly Hardy, Children Now’s associate director for health.

Hardy earlier today told me Californians for Children’s Health aims to develop a ballot measure for November 2010, and although today’s rapidly changing budget environment makes it hard to say exactly what that measure’s specifics will be, “we’re contemplating new revenue sources that would come in, not General Fund sources, that would support children’s coverage programs.”

She wouldn’t speculate on any further details, but we all know carving out new, specific revenue streams for services Californians deem crucial is a regular practice — think of Steinberg’s own Proposition 63 of 2004, which added a percentage point to the income taxe rate for Californians earning more than $1 million a year in order to bankroll California’s long underfunded mental health system. And of course, we all also know these revenue streams don’t necessarily always remain dedicated; Steinberg himself advocated last month’s Proposition 1E, which would’ve raided the Prop. 63 mental-health funds to augment the state’s bedraggled General Fund.

At any rate, as Children Now and its partners gear up for events this Thursday in San Francisco, Sacramento, Fresno and San Diego to protest the governor’s proposed cuts in children’s health, Hardy said they appreciate Steinberg’s foresight in contributing to their committee: “We’re really glad for his support, of course, and for his prioritizing of children’s coverage programs.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

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