Grandstanding California politicians seem intent on outdoing each other in finding new ways to appear to be resisting the policies of our new president. Efforts to ban cooperation by local agencies with the federal government on immigration issues include working to make California a “sanctuary state.”
As prominent elected officials beat their chests in defiance of federal law, they ignore the fact that their actions could jeopardize the wellbeing of millions of Californians who depend on the hundreds of billions of dollars Washington provides our state, the majority of which goes to support vital services to our most vulnerable citizens.
While the governor and the majority of the members of the Legislature seem intent on putting California’s share of federal dollars at risk — sort of like playing Russian roulette only the gun is aimed at the heads of taxpayers and the needy — there is an alternative. Assembly Bill 536 (by this column’s coauthor Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez) would protect the billions of dollars California currently receives in federal funding.
Assembly Bill 536 allows counties to opt out of any state laws that may result in a loss of federal funding. By electing not to implement a state law that jeopardizes funding, counties will then work directly with the federal government to receive the allocations to which they would otherwise be entitled.
While the majority of lawmakers may see themselves as heroically standing up for their principles, they don’t speak for millions of Californians who depend on federal dollars to help them survive. And they do not speak for taxpayers who do not want to pay new taxes to make up for the mistakes of irresponsible politicians and their misguided laws.
This is not a trivial issue, although one might think so after listening to the Sacramento leadership. Approximately 40% of California’s budget is allocated through the federal government. California receives $368 billion in federal funding, or about $9,500 for each Californian. The funding is most prominently used for welfare benefits and retirement pensions; however, the federal government spends money in various capacities in California — from infrastructure upkeep and maintenance, to assisting refugees.
Here are a few examples of what is at stake:
☆ California’s Department of Health Care Services received almost $54 billion from the federal government in order to provide health care services to millions of low-income and disabled Californians each and every day.
☆ California’s Department of Education receives almost $12 billion from the federal government, which include K-12 and higher education.
☆ California’s Department of Social Services, which is responsible for the oversight and administration of programs serving California’s most vulnerable residents, receives $7 billion from the federal government. Those programs include food stamps, child welfare and veteran services to state a few.
Average Californians are desperately in need of sanctuary. They are the ones in need of a “safe space” where they are protected from the frivolous yet dangerous actions of the self-aggrandizing political elite who are gladly putting the welfare of so many at risk. Lawmakers should pass Assembly Bill 536 and allow county boards of supervisors to spare their constituents from a disruption of federal benefits.
Jon Coupal is the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Melissa Melendez is the Assembly representative for California’s 67th Assembly District.