By: Assemblyman Jim Silva
The state budget mess, caused by years of over-spending by the Legislature, has reached a crisis point. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It means that we finally have the opportunity to cut spending and institute real reforms.
The only way California can climb out of this hole and get our economy back on track is through a combination of policies that promote private-sector job growth, reform public employee pensions and reduce spending on almost every segment of government. But cutting programs that actually save the state money is penny-wise and pound-foolish.
One program on the chopping block is California’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program. Started by then-Governor Ronald Reagan, IHSS provides various services to elderly, blind, and disabled persons who are unable to live unassisted in their own homes. I support this program because I believe in the principle that when using taxpayer dollars, services must be provided in the most cost-efficient way. The cost of caring for a patient in their home is about $10,000 per year. The same care in a hospital or nursing facility averages over $50,000 per year. Simply put, it’s much less expensive to keep patients at home than to place them in institutions.
Some would argue that the state should just stop caring for these people altogether, but IHSS is a Medicaid benefit, so the Feds have the final say on whether and how the state must provide this care. The courts are also involved and various lawsuits have already blocked cuts to the level of care provided. Not caring for these patients is, at this time, not an option.
Because I support IHSS in concept, it does not mean I believe it to be a perfect program - far from it. There is fraud and abuse within the system that must be rooted out. That’s why in 2009 I voted for ABX4 4 and ABX4 19. Combined, these two anti-fraud bills established a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for providers who are found to have intentionally defrauded the program; required the fingerprinting of all providers and recipients; required criminal background checks; required providers to submit verification of their identities in person, and required an evaluation of the implementation of quality assurance, fraud prevention and fraud detection efforts.
There are other issues with IHSS. For instance, public employee unions have used the program to expand their ranks and influence. I do not believe any worker should be required to join a union or pay union dues against their will. But remember, hospital workers are also unionized and hospital care for these IHSS patients would be five times as expensive.
I remain committed to reforming IHSS to restore it to its original intent as envisioned by Governor Reagan. It is my hope that the anti-fraud bills I supported in 2009 will continue to do just that, and I am actively working with my Republican colleagues on new reforms furthering this goal.
Savings can be found in virtually every government program. The major roadblock to reducing the size and scope of state government has been the liberal majority in the Legislature, many of who oppose their own Governor on spending cuts. It is my hope that the 2012 elections, with new and more competitive districts, will produce a Legislature not afraid to take on the entrenched special interests, which profit from big government.
Finally, let me state once again that California suffers from a spending problem caused by a reckless State Legislature that doubled state spending in a ten year period leading up to our current recession. Punishing taxpayers for the misdeeds of the Legislature is unacceptable.
I will not, under any circumstances, support a tax increase. I will continue to work for a state-spending limit to stop the growth of government.
Assemblyman Jim Silva- -CA. State Assemblyman- 67th District