Assemblyman Phil Ting says he's concerned about how the federal tax cut proposal will end up being a tax increase for middle-class and working-class Californians.
It's a good thing he's worried because if he wasn't he probably would have proposed new state spending in excess of the $4.1 billion he did two weeks ago as chairman of the Assembly's Budget Committee.
The San Francisco Democrat wants $1 billion a year spent to extend Medi-Cal to illegal immigrants who are adults. In addition he wants to expand the tax credit for the working poor, increase state college grants, and raise child care and preschool spending.
Whether providing Medi-Cal to illegal adults will only cost $1 billion a year is highly questionable. A broader proposal to provide healthcare for all in California - whether they are legal residents or those who arrived yesterday by illegally entering the country - pegged at $400 billion a year was rolled out several months ago. Granted that plan was to eliminate private healthcare but you've got to remember state lawmakers never miss a chance to vastly oversell a spending proposal while failing to come anywhere near the ballpark for what they will cost.
I might be a tad cynical but putting in place a program that offers free healthcare for illegals without a residency requirement would be a massive magnet to lure illegals in other states to California - especially if they have serious medical issues.
Ting and a good number of his fellow Assembly Democrats believe now that the state's economy is expanding it's time to go on a spending spree.
Forget the fact the state has a $175 billion debt that needs to be paid down including $89.9 billion in long-term state employee retirement costs that encompasses $71.8 billion in future healthcare costs for state retirees.
So instead of taking steps to make sure the state can meet its existing healthcare obligations to CHP officers, state firefighters, prison guards, and a wide array of state employees from Caltrans workers to state park rangers Ting and his pals who control the Assembly want to raid California's treasury to help lure illegals from the four corners of the planet to come to California for free healthcare.
Ting and others backing such grossly irresponsible spending ideas believe that corporations and rich people are picking up the tab. Perhaps they should try listening to the adult at the state capitol - Gov. Jerry Brown - who has repeatedly pointed out the state's revenue stream is highly dependent on capital gains taxes and such on business and the wealthy that flow freely in good times and slow to a trickle when the economy hits a rough spot.
That means in bad times - does anyone in Sacramento remember any ancient history dating back to 2008 through 2013? - the pressure is on the working stiffs and small businesses.
Of course state lawmakers simply keep squeezing them in indirect ways so they make sure their constituencies - read that state employee groups and special interests that grease their election campaigns and camp in their offices beating the drum to keep tax dollars flowing to their pet projects - stay whole. Virtually the only government agencies in California that didn't suffer staffing cutbacks and such during the last recession were the state as well to a large degree state's dual higher education systems.
Public schools, cities, and counties that provide direct day-to-day services not only were forced to cutback staffing to stay afloat but they took deeper financial hits as the state legislature raided their funding sources to keep the state humming along.
California is struggling to maintain its roads, keep dams from failing, to fund education, to make sure public pension commitments don't sink the state, and to rebuild after devastating fires and floods yet the legislature can manage to put the interests of those who aren't legally residents of this country and are here only because they broke the law ahead of the health and welfare of legal Californians.
That said, no one is arguing for a wholesale round up of illegals. But given they opted to take a shortcut to try and secure the benefits that we as a nation enjoy and those that we confer on our neediest citizens by entering this country illegally, they should not be a funding priority for scarce and overcommitted state funds.
If California lawmakers really want to help illegals they should push for a path to citizenship. Once such a path is established for illegals in this country that meet the criteria that needs to include not being a convicted or accused felon at minimum, they can become citizens and access welfare services designated for the working poor and those legitimately down on their luck. But until then Ting and the rest of the legislature can help the effort to get sound and reasonable immigration reform in place by not creating backlash as they trip over each other to play Santa Claus with taxpayers' money.
California extending Medi-Cal coverage, which is different than allowing illegals to access healthcare in a much more restricted manner that has been happening for decades in this state, makes as much sense as Ting suggesting the state send $1 billion a year in foreign aid to Central America.
Illegals are not our fellow citizens or even legal guest residents. They are citizens of other sovereign nations. The last time I checked, California doesn't have membership in the United Nations.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.