After Gov. Jerry Brown’s State of the State address pushing for the Legislature to place a series of tax-extension measures on the ballot, Republicans countered by emphasizing their continuing opposition to higher taxes. For instance, Assemblyman Brian Nestande of Palm Desert, the Assembly minority leader’s top lieutenant, said, “I stand firm in my commitment not to raise taxes, which is a critical component of the governor’s plan to solve the $25.4 billion budget gap. We have to cut state spending to solve our fiscal crisis.”
While I oppose the governor’s tax-increase plans, I worry about the credibility of Republicans in opposing them these days.
Recently, three Assembly members, including Nestande, joined with Democrats at a union-sponsored rally to oppose government cuts to In-Home Supportive Services. The other two pro-union Republicans are Jim Silva of Huntington Beach and Paul Cook of Yucca Valley. These men didn’t betray their conservative principles, given that they always were fairly unprincipled sorts. But they did betray the GOP caucus and they did humiliate Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway of Tulare, who couldn’t do anything to stop them.
How can Republicans now move forward with reforms to the waste-plagued, scandal-ridden and at times abusive IHSS program if top Republicans oppose cuts to it at any cost? The three Republicans were perfectly comfortable standing in front of a union crowd that was chanting, “No more cuts.” So now that Silva, Nestande and Cook agree with the state’s most liberal elements that we cannot cut programs, then what choices are left? You can go on to each Assembly member’s website and find all the usual Republican blather about limiting government and holding the line on taxes, but it’s meaningless after this rally. If you can’t cut programs, you have to raise taxes or increase debt, which is a tax on future generations.
It’s ironic that these three pro-union Republicans would champion the IHSS program in particular. It’s a wasteful program that ends up subsidizing family members to take care of their own. Support for this program undermines any claim of conservatism.
Someone I know had initially signed up for the program, and then he soon received the organizing packet from the Service Employees International Union. He didn’t have to join the union, but he would have had to pay dues had he continued to receive the subsidy. Supporters claim the program saves money because it is cheaper than paying for nursing homes. But once everyone learns that the state will pay them for caring for family members, costs will soar. This is government intervention deeply into the family unit, something that undermines family values, something Republicans like to talk about. People should not be paid by the government for care they would and should provide on their own. There’s no way this kind of system could possibly save taxpayers any money.
Not surprisingly, this program has been plagued by corruption. The Schwarzenegger administration proposed reforms after it was reported that many IHSS “caregivers” had criminal backgrounds.
Well, at least we know which three Republicans are likely to side with Democrats when tax-raising budgets are proposed.
Steven Greenhut is editor of www.calwatchdog.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.