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TRAVELER
Will They Ever Learn?
by Ray Haynes
[politician] 6/19/06
 

If you ever want to understand government, take a look at the budget process.

Last week was the budget deadline. It is a soft deadline. The state Constitution requires that the Legislature pass a budget by June 15, and that the Governor sign it by June 30 of each year. There are no penalties if the Legislature doesn’t act by June 15, so that deadline is rarely met. In fact, the only time it has been met since I have been in the Legislature was the 2000-01 budget, which increased state spending from $66 billion to $79 billion in one year. The very next year, the state found out it had a $28 billion deficit. The moral of this story? On-time budgets are not all they are cracked up to be.

Contributor

Ray Haynes

Mr. Haynes is an Assembly member representing Riverside and Temecula. He serves on the Appropriations and Budget Committees. [go to Assembly Member Haynes website at California Assembly][go to Haynes index]

This year, the Democrats in the Legislature really wanted to have an on-time budget. They talked about it in the press. They gave great speeches on the floor about the “unique” opportunity that the Legislature had this year to pass an on-time budget. They tried to push Republicans into believing that passing a budget on-time was critically important so that the Legislature could “preserve” its reputation. (What reputation an institution with a 21% approval rating has is beyond me, but they wanted to preserve that).

In my experience, every time my Legislative colleagues start going through this drill, they are getting ready to drop a budget bomb on the people of the state of California. As the 2000-01 budget proved, that bomb can go nuclear in a very short time. As the events of this week showed, it did.

This week the Speaker announced that they wanted to spend $30 million this year, up to a total of $300 million in the next 3 years, for an expansion of the “Healthy Families” program, to cover low cost health care for people who are not eligible for the federal S-CHIP (state child health insurance program). There are only two groups of people not eligible for that program—people earning $51,000 a year or more who do not have health insurance, and illegal aliens. Since most people earning over $51,000 have health care, 90% of this money (paid for entirely by the California taxpayer) would go to illegal aliens.

Republicans said NO.

A howl went up from the Capitol. Republicans hate children. Republicans are holding up the budget process. How could these “Wascally Wepublicans” be so hard hearted?

First of all, the “Healthy Families” program was intended to help only those who found it hard to pay for their own health insurance. Second, it was intended to be paid for by the Federal government, which promised to pay for two-thirds of the cost of the program. Finally, it was only supposed to help US citizens. This new program violated all three of those rules.

In 1998, when the state passed “Healthy Families,” I predicted it would blow up the state budget. I was actually wrong. In 1999, California government spent about $10-$20 million advertising the program. Not enough people were signing up for the program, so now we spend $120 million—all to expand the program, that is, to make it cost more to the taxpayer and encourage more people to mooch off the government. Evidently, this increased spending on advertising was unsuccessful. People are still not signing up enough, so the Legislative Democrats want to include illegals as eligible.

In the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 budgets, the state created its budget crisis by greatly expanding the health and welfare programs, increasing expenditures in that area by 41%. A lot of those new expenditures went to cover services for illegals. Unless Californians quit voting for them, Democrats will continue to push dumb ideas that lead to budget crises. CRO

Mr. Haynes is a California Assemblyman repesenting Riverside and Temecula and frequent contributor to CaliforniaRepublic.org.

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