The state legislature is in special session to address two urgent matters that require special attention after being neglected in recent years. One is funding to maintain the deteriorated state and local roads and streets; the other is replenishing funds for the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), which serves the disabled, California’s neediest and most vulnerable.
Governor Brown’s call for special session is aimed at addressing andresolving these two issues. It would be improper to seize the moment to bring back failed bills from the past regular session, such as assisted death, or to promote new proposals on tobacco. These are important, but they are distractions, and their controversial nature will sap political will from the issues this session is meant to address, which pose their own difficulties.
For example, Medi-Cal and services for the disabled are in urgent need of funding. The support the state provides to nearly 280,000 disabled persons with developmental problems has deteriorated to the point that some beneficiaries are receiving less than is mandated by the federal government. Since before the Great Recession, funding for the disabled has been subject to cuts; the crisis led to one billion dollars in reductions, putting reimbursements for services rendered at risk. A 10% increase is needed for the regional centers and reimbursements to providers, in addition to creating a system able to sustain the agency’s funding for years.
Lawmakers must also find nearly $60 billionto maintain state highways and roads, and $78 billion for repairs to local streets. One way to do this is to increase the gasoline tax, which has been the same since 1994, which only provides $2.3 billion per year, much less than is needed. There is bipartisan agreement on the need to provide more funds. The difference is that Democrats want to increase revenues, and Republicans don’t want to raise taxes.
The special session is a way to give priority to difficult issues. We believe that poverty in California and CalWORKS also deserve attention in the next session, as transportation and developmental disabilities do today.