Los Angeles County supervisors have a plan to balance the county's ever-precarious budget this year.
It's called Get More Money From Washington.
All five Los Angeles County supervisors were there last week, meeting with members of Congress and their staffs in an attempt to secure welfare funding for legal immigrants, stabilize the county's health care system and get reimbursed for jailing illegal aliens.
The annual trip is especially important this year because the recently released budget has been balanced under the assumption that the county will not suffer any negative impact from federal welfare reform, such as the shift of legal immigrants from federal Supplemental Security Income to county General Relief.
In addition to the five supervisors and their aides, other county officials took the trip, including Chief Administrative Officer David E. Janssen, District Attorney Gil Garcetti, Health Services Director Mark Finucane and Public Social Services Director Lynn Baker.
Such excursions are necessary, said Victoria Fouce, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich's deputy chief of staff, because members of Congress may not know the full impact that federal decisions have on L.A. County.
"They know the issues, but they don't always know the level of detail," said Fouce, who has made the Washington trip eight times. "It's very important for them to understand what our specific needs are especially those who sit on committees."
Among the most important issues identified by Board Chairman Zev Yaroslavsky in a letter to federal lawmakers are:
- Eligibility of legal immigrants for federal programs. The Board of Supervisors wants supplemental security income and food stamps restored for legal immigrants. The county expects an annual net loss in local purchasing power of $412 million from SSI benefits and $84 million in food stamp benefits if the programs are cut.
- Continuation of L.A. County's Section 1115 Medicaid waiver. Supervisors want three more years of federal funding to continue restructuring the county health care system toward greater outpatient care and more public-private partnerships.
- Disproportionate share hospital funding. The county wants a Medicaid repayment cap reinstated at 175 percent on uncollected costs for two years at California hospitals. The cap once was at 200 percent providing better funding for public hospitals treating high numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients but was reduced to 100 percent in 1995.
- Reimbursement of criminal alien incarceration costs. The county wants full reimbursement for the state and local costs of jailing illegal immigrants. The current cost to the county of jailing illegal immigrants is estimated at $45 million.
Among the meetings the supervisors attended was "California Day," during which they met with California Congressional Delegation co-chairs Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, and Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, as well as California senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
All five supervisors also met with Vice President Al Gore, and "pretty much the entire Southern California delegation, between the five supervisors," said Michael Bustamante, Supervisor Gloria Molina's governmental relations director who accompanied Molina on the trip.
Bustamante said it went well, and that members of Congress as well as White House policy advisors seemed open to the concerns of the supervisors.
"Clearly there is a spirit of consensus among the Southern California delegation to work together to craft the necessary agreements to get California its fair share of resources, and at the same time not to further erode the resources we already have," he said.
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