By Joe Guzzardi
February 1, 2012
Earlier this week, California’s Controller John Chiang warned Sacramento legislators that the state must raise $3.3 billion by March or it will be flat out of cash.
Following California’s cash flow projections and its budget shortfall estimates is dizzying. During the last decade, budget deficits have ranged from $10 to $25 billion. Today’s crisis is precipitated by a $2.6 billion revenue shortfall and a $2.6 billion spending increase, a net negative of $5.2 billion. Obviously, Governor Jerry Brown’s optimistic budget submitted last year was fantasy.
Accordingly, Brown issued threats familiar to Californians. The most serious include delayed payments to universities, counties and Medi-Cal that would gut their services.
As a native Californian who fled in 2008, I can confirm that the once Golden State is a disaster. California has such a vast array of problems that it’s hard to categorize them. In summary, they include an official unemployment rate that’s hovered around 12 percent since the recession began in 2007 but which approaches 20 percent in some counties, the accompanying rampant poverty, falling housing prices, brutal income, sales and gasoline taxation levels, rising crime as well as the omnipresent threat of wildfires, mudslides and earthquakes.
Last but certainly not least, California has at least 10 million legal and illegal immigrants, more than any state. If California didn’t have to support them, it’s could erase its $5.2 billion revenue gap. California spends more than that on education for K-12 immigrant children.
Typically, discussions about a state’s illegal immigrant population are dismissed with the response that immigration is a federal issue. Superficially, that’s true. But as governor of the nation’s largest state, Brown has leverage if only he would choose to use it.
Consider this scenario, unlikely as it may be. Pleading that California is effectively bankrupt and that excessive illegal immigration is a major contributor, Gov. Brown could appeal to President Obama to intercede by asking ICE to intervene.
Good luck. The bitter truth is that not only won’t Brown or his state legislators raise a finger to slow illegal immigration, they will continue to actively encourage it. Last year, Brown signed two bills that sent the message to illegal immigrants that they can live, study and work in California without fear of consequences.
First, Brown signed a bill that prevents local businesses from using E-Verify, the online program that confirms that a new hire is legally authorized to work. Without it, aliens can and will apply for scarce California jobs.
Second, Brown’s DREAM Act will allow alien students to access taxpayer funded monies and Cal Grants to subsidize their already low instate tuition fees. Previously, Cal Grants had been reserved for American citizen students.
Other legislators followed Brown’s lead.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano finalized a bill that instructs law enforcement agencies not to cooperate with certain alien detainer requests that may include criminals. Secure Communities, which California has participated in, requires sharing fingerprints with ICE.
And Assemblyman Fabio Fuentes introduced an initiative that would allow millions of California aliens to work legally.
Individually, these actions incentivize more illegal immigration. Collectively and at the fiscal and emotional expense to law abiding Californians, they roll out the red carpet for more aliens which in turn drive the state deeper into debt.
If California is serious about its endless fiscal woes, it should take a firm stand against illegal immigration instead of sending messages that promote it.
Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns, mostly about immigration and related social issues, since 1986. He is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and his columns are syndicated in various U.S. newspapers and websites. Contact him at [email protected]