Monday, 15 July 2024

Berg outlines priorities for coming year


Health care, in fact, says Berg, will be the year's No. 1 issue in the state capitol, including for both houses of legislature and in Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration.

But as the chair of the Assembly's budget subcommittee on health and human services the third-term Democrat from Eureka is worried about how the state's long-lingering deficit will affect efforts to bring the state's 800,000 uninsured children and rapidly expanding senior population under the health care insurance umbrella.

"We have to provide coverage to so many more people," said Berg, "and we have to accomplish this within the context of an expected $5.5 billion budget deficit. I want to ensure that the budget deficit does not unfairly hurt the people who need the help the most. I want to see the budget balanced in a fair manner.

"We are at the very least going to see a push to ensure that all the children in the state of California have first priority."

Because Berg is also the Assembly chair on aging and long-term care, she is equally concerned about the group at the opposite end of the age spectrum, older people. That group is growing so rapidly that there has been a "dramatic shift in the state's senior population," she said.

"We are specifically impacted by the 'Baby Boom' population people born between 1946 and 1964 reaching retirement and old age," she said.

Berg is hopeful that ideas from a "master plan" for human services, which she joined government representatives from California and five other states to develop over a two-year period, will find their way into the state Assembly's eventual health care proposal.

"We released the plan last fall," she said. "Basically, it sets out a road map and details ways to improve and coordinate human services. There are essentially 96 initiatives in a range of 10 different topic areas that I've delivered to every member of the state legislature. I'm hoping they're going to use (ideas from the six-state master plan) as they develop their agenda and that some of those ideas become legislation this year."

In a new and additional role as chair of the legislative women's caucus, Berg wants to do something about the imbalance of gender representation in the state government.

She notes that the fact that women comprise only 28 percent of the state's legislature is an anomaly at a time when California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi has just ascended to Speaker of the House, the third-highest office in the land; both of the state's U.S. senators are women; and Hillary Clinton is a presidential candidate.

"At the federal level, we have the first woman Speaker of the House, so the marble ceiling has broken," said Berg. "But at the state level we have a long way to go, because we have only one woman Secretary of State Deborah Bowen in a statewide Constitutional office and a decline in women office-holders. Since 1918, in fact, we've had only 114 women serve in the California legislature.

"And that's not good enough. "We comprise more than 50 percent of the population, so we've got to do better on that score."

E-mail John Lindblom at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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