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Ellen Corbett named to Senate Budget Committee

State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett will serve out her final year in the Legislature with a seat on one of its most vital committees.

Ellen CorbettCorbett, D-San Leandro, was named to the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee on Wednesday, and will chair its Health and Human Services subcommittee; the appointment made by the Senate Rules Committee takes effect immediately. The 16-member committee must analyze the state budget proposal that Gov. Jerry Brown offered this month.

“I look forward to working closely with all stakeholders to ensure that the state budget process continues to be transparent and constituent-oriented,” Corbett said in a news release.

She said she’s confident she and her colleagues can produce a final budget “that is both reasonable and ensures that the best interests of Californians are protected,” particularly in her subcommittee’s area. “After previous years of cuts to important health and human services programs, I look forward to approving a budget that minimizes the short- and long-term impacts to the most vulnerable segments of our population, including children, seniors and adults with developmental and other disabilities.”

Corbett also is campaigning this year to unseat fellow Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, in the East Bay’s 15th Congressional District.

1

Skinner, Ammiano undecided on prison plans

Don’t mistake the Assembly Budget Committee’s unanimous passage of Gov. Jerry Brown’s prison plan Thursday for a clear sail through that chamber.

Committee chairwoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said Friday that the committee acted largely in order to beat the deadline for fiscal committees to move bills to the floor – not because every member agrees completely with the plan put forth by Brown, Assembly Speaker John Perez, Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway.

She demurred when asked whether she prefers this plan to the alternative put forth by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. “All of this stuff is still being discussed and negotiated,” she said.

She’s not the only Bay Area liberal lawmaker who’s undecided on which plan to side with.

Aug. 16 was the last day for policy committees to meet and report bills, so the Brown/Perez/Huff/Conway plan doesn’t have to go through the Public Safety Committee, chaired by Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.

I asked whether Ammiano would care to discuss the competing prison plans as chairman of the committee that would’ve had to hear them had they come earlier. “I think he’d rather stay away from the hypotheticals, and has yet to make a decision on how to vote when the Brown/Perez bill gets to the floor,” spokesman Carlos Alcala replied late Thursday afternoon.

1

Lee, Huffman will help seek budget deal

Two Bay Area House members will be on the conference committee charged with completing a federal budget deal, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday.

Pelosi, D-San Francisco, appointed all Democrats from the House Budget Committee as conferees; that includes Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. Pelosi also called out House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for having not appointed any Republican conferees, even though the U.S. Senate passed a budget bill 96 days ago.

“The American people can’t afford to wait any longer for Republicans to act on a reasonable, responsible budget, and neither should we,” she said. “Democrats have put our ideas on the table time and again, with a budget proposal to create jobs, promote growth, invest in innovation and infrastructure, and bring down the deficit in a balanced way.”

Boehner at a news conference this morning said the nation’s 1.8 percent economic growth in the year’s first quarter isn’t enough. “That’s why Republicans are continuing to listen to the American people, and offering a real jobs plan for American families and small businesses,” he said. “Our jobs plan can bring us out of this ‘new normal’ and deliver sustained economic growth, and expand opportunity for all Americans.”

Meanwhile, the House Budget Committee held a hearing Wednesday on “America’s Energy Revolution,” which chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc, acknowledged “isn’t a big part of the federal budget.” Huffman accused the committee of wasting time.

“We continue to have these pep rallies for the oil and gas industry while real problems are simply, for some reason, off the table. We don’t even have a conference committee so we can move forward and try to negotiate a federal budget, but we’re here to have a pep rally for the oil and gas industry,” Huffman said at the hearing. “We’ve got student loan interest rates about to double in less than a week, but we’re not talking about that. We’re not talking about any number of things, like the sequester and the people that are actually suffering. We’re here to talk about folks who are experiencing record profits. There are real problems that we need to be solving, and we need to be working together.”

4

Musical chairs for three local Assembly members

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, will take over as chairwoman of the Assembly Budget Committee, Speaker John Perez has just announced.

Perez, D-Los Angeles, named Skinner to replacy Bob Blumenfield, D-San Fernando Valley, who was elected to the Los Angeles City Council.

That sets the dominoes a-fallin’, of course. Perez also announced that Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, will replace Skinner as chairman of the Assembly Rules Committee, and Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, will replace Gordon as chairwoman of the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee.

The appointments take effect July 3.

UPDATE @ 6:30 P.M.: Aaaaaaaand, everybody’s happy!

“I thank Speaker Pérez for appointing me chair of the Budget Committee,” Skinner said. “I look forward to taking on this new and challenging role. Filling the shoes of Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield, whose leadership and vision has helped California pass a balanced on-time budget for a third year in a row, is an honor. As budget chair, I look forward to putting education first, delivering essential services and strengthening California’s economic prosperity.”

“It is an honor to be appointed to Chair the Assembly Rules Committee, and I thank the Speaker for entrusting me with this responsibility,” Gordon said. “I plan to continue the good work of my predecessor, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that the Assembly continues to be a strong and vibrant institution.”

7

Newt Gingrich on Medicare, then and now

Newt Gingrich was thought to have doomed his then-nascent presidential campaign last May when he stiff-armed his own party’s budget plan on “Meet the Press.”

“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering. I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate. I think we need a national conversation to get to a better Medicare system with more choices for seniors,” Gingrich had said.

“I think that that is too big a jump,” he had said of the House GOP budget proposal to move Medicare from a system of direct government payment to doctors to one in which private insurance companies would manage a voucher-like system for seniors.

But Gingrich seems 100 percent OK with the new plan being rolled out by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. That plan includes a proposal – made jointly with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. – for an optional premium support plan, which according to them would “strengthen traditional Medicare by permanently maintaining it as a guaranteed and viable option for all of our nation’s retirees. At the same time, our plan would expand choice for seniors by allowing the private sector to compete with Medicare in an effort to offer seniors better quality and more-affordable health care choices.”

Here’s what Gingrich said today:

Newt Gingrich“The House GOP budget is a courageous plan that correctly understands the key to returning to a balanced budget is robust economic growth, spending control and bold entitlement reform, including the Ryan-Wyden optional premium support plan in Medicare. Chairman Ryan and the House Republican’s leadership stands in stark contrast with that of the Democratic Senate, which has once again, failed to produce a budget.”

“My plan to grow the economy and balance the budget differs in details but shares the same core principles as Ryan’s impressive effort. As president I would work very closely with Chairman Ryan to reform government and balance the budget.”

Yet Bay Area Democrats see little if any difference between what Ryan proposed last year and what he’s proposing this week. Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, the ranking member on the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee that oversees Medicare, said:

Pete Stark“This year’s Republican Budget, once again, is a plan to dismantle the Medicare guarantee that Americans overwhelmingly support and that seniors and people with disabilities rely on.

“The Republican claim that their budget would preserve Medicare is both irresponsible and disingenuous. Beneficiaries would be given a voucher — crafted to decrease in value over time — to buy private insurance or try to stay in traditional Medicare.

“This Republican scheme would not only shift health care costs to seniors as their vouchers diminish, but will end Medicare as we know it. Private plans will cherry pick healthier folks, leaving the more sickly and elderly in what amounts to a faint memory of traditional Medicare as costs rise beyond their reach.

“Importantly, the Republican budget would not require plans to provide defined benefits as Medicare does today, thus ending the Medicare guarantee that has defined the program for decades.

“What’s more, the Republican budget would undo the consumer protections provided by Medicare and put private health insurers back in charge.
“Enacting the Republican plan would be devastating to the health and financial security of America’s senior citizens and people with disabilities. I will fight this plan to take America backward.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said Ryan’s plan lets Medicare “wither on the vine … The American people have already rejected this plan before – and this year will be no different. Americans’ priorities are clear: Republicans must work with Democrats to preserve and strengthen Medicare, not dismantle it.”

0

War of words over new GOP budget plan

The Republican budget plan rolled out yesterday by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, D-Wisc., has brought a flood of rhetoric from both sides of the aisle, particularly where Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are concerned.

From U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah:

“The status quo is unsustainable. Our over $14 trillion debt is a threat to the future of our nation. Spending has been out-of-control for far too long. Our entitlement programs – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – look more like an empty promise that our children and grandchildren will pay for, but will never see.

“In February, we saw the White House’s response: a budget that taxes, borrows, and spends too much – demonstrating a complete failure of leadership to confront our spending-fueled debt crisis. In contrast, Paul Ryan has put serious ideas on the table to reform Medicare and Medicaid, streamline our tax code, cut spending, and confront our debt. He rightly includes a proposal to kick Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac off the government dole, fully repeal the budget-busting $2.6 trillion health law, and extend the 2001 and 2003 tax relief permanently, while reducing our corporate tax rate.

“The White House and its Capitol Hill allies need to demonstrate real leadership and join Republicans in working to solve the tremendous fiscal challenges facing our nation. Unfortunately, what we are seeing from the other side is a defense of an unsustainable status quo and political attacks on Republican ideas. That’s not the kind of leadership the American people are asking for.

“As Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, we need to consider all ideas to fix our broken entitlements, cut spending and reform the overly-burdensome tax code. We know that the Medicaid expansion in the $2.6 trillion health law threatens to bankrupt both states and the federal government. We know that cutting over a half-trillion dollars from a nearly bankrupt Medicare system to create new entitlements and expand existing ones is the height of fiscal irresponsibility. We know that Social Security will not exist in the future if we fail to reform it now. We know our tax code is too complex, threatens our ability to compete in the world, and needs to be overhauled.”

Democrats contend future Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries are now being asked to suffer because Republicans have forced the extension of tax cuts for millionaires and because of the nation’s profligate war spending over the past decade.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said Ryan’s plan “would give huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, all paid for by destroying Medicare for our seniors and denying health care to our most vulnerable children.”

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, said Republicans have “reneged on their commitment to Medicare. They don’t believe that senior citizens and people with disabilities have a right to guaranteed health benefits. Instead, they will turn the health of seniors and people with disabilities over to private insurers. Say goodbye to secure health care when you need it most. That’s what this budget means to anyone in America who hopes to grow old.”

Stark’s office today cited an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that says a typical Medicare beneficiary would spend more for health care under Ryan’s plan because private plans would cost more than traditional Medicare and the government’s contribution would grow more slowly than health care costs.

But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said:

“The American people understand we can’t continue spending money we don’t have, especially when doing so is making it harder to create jobs and get our economy back on track. The Administration has put forward a budget for next year that raises taxes by $1.5 trillion and is silent on our debt crisis, a surefire recipe for destroying jobs. Our budget will help spur job creation today, stop spending money we don’t have, and lift the crushing burden of debt that threatens our children’s future. Our budget also recognizes Americans are concerned not just about how much government spends, but how government spends it, and keeps our pledge to set strict budget caps that limit federal spending on annual basis. Most importantly, this budget shows families and small businesses that we’re serious about dealing with America’s spending illness so we can put our country on a path to prosperity.

“Chairman Ryan and the members of the Budget Committee have done an excellent job putting together a budget worthy of the American people. I hope every American concerned about our country’s future will take a look at it.”

More from your local lawmakers, after the jump…
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