Some pretty embarrassing chatter
has come to light in recent days, better illuminating the new relationship
between the state of California and the new federal leadership. This
month, it was alleged that the Obama administration threatened to withhold
nearly $7 billion in federal funding, that otherwise was supposed to
go to California as part of the federal stimulus program, to help pay
for medical costs attached to Medicaid.
As is stands, the state had
faced a project budget deficit of $42 billion at the bleakest point,
in February, before a tentative budget balancing deal was agreed upon.
Now, the projected cash shortfall has risen to over $20 billion. While
that is going on, the Service Employees International Union, is apparently
griping over $2 per hour.
The murky situation appears
to hinge on two factors: first, legislators in the state of California
proposed cutting $74 million from home health care workers’ maximum
salaries (per hour) as part of a complex plan to balance the budget;
secondly, that at some point, the union serving those employees, the
Service Employees International Union, is accused of putting pressure
on the federal government to withhold certain federal funding dollars
(ostensibly to the tune of $6.8 billion) until the salary caps were
removed. The alleged phone call between White House officials, California
officials and SEIU officials, is said to have taken place on April 15.
Flash forward more than a month later, and whether or not the state
will receive those federal dollars… is still unknown.
According to the Los Angeles
Times, signals have been mixed, at best, from the president’s staff.
The LA Times writes that “state officials said they had explicitly
been told. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration said they were
notified by senior Obama staff on May 3 that California’s plan to cut
wages for unionized home healthcare workers violated the law that authorized
the stimulus package.”
It gets even murkier. SEIU
officials are not even trying to hide their interconnectedness with
the big guy. In a May interview in the Las Vegas Sun, the president
of the SEIU, Andy Stern, stated that his union pumped more than $60
million into the effort to back Barack Obama’s bid for the presidency.
If this doesn’t create confusion, or a clear conflict of interest,
then nothing will.
According to the Wall Street
Journal, officials in California had “agreed to… wage cuts for unionized
home health-care workers. The Service Employees International Union
huffed to the higher power in Washington, which duly agreed to hold
California’s stimulus hostage. Governor Schwarzenegger has sent a
letter asking the feds to reconsider.”
Bottom line: the state of California
is in a fiscal mess, and every dollar counts. With the expected rejection
of the six May 19 ballot initiatives (some to “save” money by shuffling
around funds, one to raise taxes), voters in the Golden State are making
it clear that wasteful and ineffective governing is unacceptable. Having
a powerful union stepping in and dictating how millions of taxpayer
dollars should be spent (to help their employees, and damn the fate
of the rest of taxpayers) and whether or not federal dollars should
reach California, should be just as disgust-inciting, as any other irresponsible
move meant to adversely affect state residents.
Blocking $6.8 billion, and
all over $2.00 less per hour, per employee… it makes you think. Perhaps
the SEIU should offer to pay any state workers who lose their jobs as
a result of the funding freeze, as the SEIU appears to believe the difference
between a little over $12 per hour and a little over $10 per hour, is
so vital, particularly in this economy.