Governor Vows to Continue Push for Health Care Reform

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Governor Schwarzenegger gave his annual address at the Sacramento Press Club on Tuesday. He said he'll continue pushing for health care reform in California, despite a setback this week. Schwarzenegger also vowed to resolve a multibillion-dollar budget crisis. KPCC Morning Edition host Steve Julian spoke with state capitol reporter Julie Small about the governor's speech.

Steve Julian: Governor Schwarzenegger gave his annual address at the Sacramento Press Club on Tuesday. He said he'll continue pushing for healthcare reform in California, despite a setback this week, and to resolve a multi-billion dollar budget crisis.

KPCC's state capitol reporter, Julie Small, caught the speech. Julie, what's the talk in Sacramento now about where the governor goes from here with his healthcare plan?

Julie Small: Well, he says he wants to pick up where he left off, and try again. And he's not willing to scale back the plan. The healthcare reform that went down in flames this week would have given most Californians some form of medical insurance. And the costs were spread among Californians: hospitals, employers and employees, and a tobacco tax, and would have attracted more federal dollars too.

Governor Schwarzenegger said that, without that pool of money to draw on, how do you do pay for a scaled down plan? Like, one idea is to insure all the children. Great idea, but who pays? That's why he says a piecemeal approach won't work in health care.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: When you do it in fragmented ways and piecemeal it, then it becomes kind of the special interests going to say, I'm going to go lobby now the legislators to change this one thing that really will benefit me, and no one else. And that is the problem that has been, in the history of health care, it all has been done incremental, and so what you have now is a mishmash of different things that ends up being disastrous for the people of California.

Julian: The senate voted down that health care reform bill because they said it was too expensive. The state faces a $14 billion deficit over the next two years and that plan would have cost about 14 billion. Yet, Julie, the governor thinks California can afford it?

Small: Well, he said California needs to keep investing in the state's infrastructure, to be able to keep up with population growth. He made the point that our ability to transport goods quickly and maintain water and electricity supplies, educate workers, that's all critical to the future of our economy.

Schwarzenegger: Let's not look at this as on ongoing crisis. What we face here with the budget, and what we face here with the economy, is a temporary bump in the road. It's not a permanent thing. Therefore, let's not lose sight that we've got to build for permanent things.

We've got to fix health care. We've got to go and rebuild California. We've got to build more roads. We've got to build more university buildings, we've got to build more classrooms. We've got to continue fixing our levees.

Julian: The Governor also said he was encouraged by some of the changes President Bush announced in his State Of The Union address.

Small: Yes, he said the economic stimulus package would definitely help California. Tax rebates will help, that and raising the amount that Sallie Mae and Freddie Mac can lend homebuyers. Schwarzenegger had pushed to raise that amount from about $400,000 to $700,000, something he says that could actually buy a house in California.

Now he says homeowners in the state won't have to rely on those subprime loans that are spurring foreclosures. Schwarzenegger said he plans to tell President Bush all about this while he's in California today, and also to tout the importance of international trade.

Julian: Now, the president's due to arrive at LAX around 11 o'clock this morning. He will be raising money for the next Republican presidential candidate. The Governor hasn't endorsed anybody yet. Any indication who'll get Schwarzenegger's support?

Small: Well, you know, all the reporters at that event yesterday tried every which way they could to get him to talk about that, and get an answer out of him. And he just said he has a favorite, and maybe someday he'll talk about it, but not right now.