A record $215 billion state budget approved Thursday by majorities in the Assembly and Senate is “fiscally responsible” and meets “crucial needs” to address homelessness and strengthen social services, two Riverside County lawmakers said, while others denounced the spending blueprint as a wallet-busting plan that will grow state government and fund giveaways to undocumented immigrants.
“Legislative Democrats are more than willing to continue spending other people’s money while having little to no success to point to,” Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, said. “This year’s budget proposes spending $650 million on `fighting’ homelessness for the entire state, the bulk of that money likely destined for cities like Los Angeles, which failed miserably at its last attempt. No Californian should expect that the state will do a better job, because the Democrat majority party has shown they’re incompetent at problem solving.”
With between 120,000 and 130,000 homeless statewide, California is believed to have the largest population of dispossessed people in the country, according to Melendez.
She criticized the “healthcare for all” component of the budget, which re-institutes an individual health insurance mandate that Congress stripped out of Obamacare two years ago. California residents without health insurance coverage will face an annual penalty of $695.
“But we are giving health insurance away for free to illegal aliens,” Melendez said.
Under the budget deal, which Gov. Gavin Newsom must still sign into law by June 30, undocumented immigrants 18 to 26 years old will be eligible for taxpayer-subsidized health insurance. Those younger than 18 were already eligible.
The plan also provides nearly $1.5 billion in health insurance subsidies for low and middle income residents.
Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Moreno Valley, joined Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Indio, in expressing pride in the appropriations plan.
“It is a fiscally responsible budget, with $19.4 billion in reserves for future rainy days,” Medina said. “It includes investments in education, combating homelessness and social services. As chair of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education, I am also pleased to see nearly $52 million being put towards addressing student hunger and homelessness across the (Cal State and University of California) systems, along with $49 million to increase resident undergraduate enrollment at the UC.”
Garcia said the budget “is reflective of our state’s core values and most crucial needs.”
“It makes landmark investments in our families, educational systems and housing,” the legislator said. “We have come together to uphold our commitment to the health of the over one million Californians without safe, reliable drinking water. The establishment of an equitable and sustainable drinking water fund was my number one priority this year.”
The budget proposes a new 80-cent per month tax on phones to fund 911 modernization, and there is a proposed eight-week expansion of the state family leave law, giving parents up to four months to care for a newborn or adopted child without fear of losing their job.
“Have you had enough? Despite a record-setting $215 billion budget, including a $22 billion surplus, the governor and legislative Democrats still want more of our money,” said Sen. Mike Morrell, R-Menifee. “Over the next two years, businesses will pay $3 billion in new taxes. Consumers will be charged $1 billion over three years in health penalty taxes. These increases come on top of the six-cents-per-gallon increase set to hit gas prices on July 1. The next generation cannot afford for the state to increase financial burdens on them.”
The additional imposition at the pump results from a 2010 tax realignment under which excise taxes are adjusted annually. By one estimate, the state will siphon $850 million out of motorists’ wallets from this one tax in the next fiscal year.
Sen. Jeff Stone, R-La Quinta, judged the budget “morally wrong” from several perspectives.
The senator found it inconceivable that nearly 11,000 homeless veterans cannot get the help they need to get off the streets, but the “Legislature is ready to give nearly $100 million in free healthcare to those in the country illegally.”
“Government’s first priority is public safety,” he said. “Its next priority is to help those citizens who can’t help themselves. My concern about this budget is that it rewards those who are here illegally and punishes those who have played by the rules and still can’t seem to get any relief.”