What taxpayers should know about the California budget

BudgetCalifornia voters are pretty good at figuring out what is going in the state capital when it hits them directly. For example, recent polling shows that citizen awareness of the $5.2 billion annual gas and car tax is very high and, incidentally, very negative.

But the same can’t be said when it comes to the more complicated and arcane actions of our state politicians such as the annual California state budget process. While Californians are painfully aware that taxes are very high (they’ve been watching their friends and neighbors moving out of state at record pace) they typically have little comprehension of where their tax dollars go. That’s not surprising since California ranks dead last in budget transparency according to a recent study by U.S. News & World Report.

Nonetheless, here are the main takeaways that every California taxpayer should know.

First, the budget is huge – over $125 billion in general fund spending – by far the largest budget in California history. Since the recovery began after the great recession, taxpayers have infused California’s General Fund with $41 billion and special funds by $28 billion. That translates into a 63 percent increase since 2010. And property owners have done their part as well. With real estate values fully recovered (and then some) property tax revenues are up 72 percent. This is where our schools get the lion’s share of their money.

Second, the budget is only balanced if you ignore debt. The majority party is practically breaking their arms trying to pat themselves on the back for a “balanced budget.” This is like a family celebrating the fact that they paid all their bills this month but ignoring the fact that they have a mortgage that is way beyond their means over the long term. California’s pension debt is, by some measurements, close to a trillion dollars.

Third, the budget is, as usual, full of tricks and questionable accounting. One of the more dubious ploys involves borrowing from special funds. This year, there’s a proposal to borrow $6 billion (with a “b”) from the state’s Surplus Money Investment Fund to reduce the unfunded liability of the state’s pension fund, PERS. While there is agreement that appropriating more money to PERS now helps to reduce unfunded liability in the future, that payment should come from current revenue, not a special account designed to cover ongoing operating expenses.  Let’s call this for what it is: Paying your Visa bill with your MasterCard.

The budget is being praised for adding a couple billion more to the state’s rainy day fund (technically called the Budget Stabilization Account) bringing it to over $8.4 billion. But recall during the last recession, the budget shortfall was many times that amount. Thus, while it seems like a lot of money, the state’s reserve funds remain woefully inadequate. You can’t save a penny a day for a couple of years and think it will be enough to fix the roof when it collapses.

Other trickery includes several dozen so-called “trailer bills.” These are supposed to be budget related bills – many are not – that can pass with a simple majority vote and are not subject to citizen referendum. Because they can be jammed through on short notice without citizen recourse, they are a favorite tool of the majority party to effectuate big policy changes. Two examples of this are the gutting of the California Board of Equalization – one of the few state tax agencies in America actually accountable to voters – and a blatantly political power grab by changing the law as it relates to recall elections designed solely to throw a lifeline to a tax-and-spend democrat who cast the deciding vote on the gas and car tax hike.

Bottom line? The majority party has adopted laws and policies which will unquestionably push state spending permanently higher by expanding programs, increasing welfare costs and giving their political funders – labor unions – higher compensation via costly collective bargaining agreements. Our elected leadership is driving California right off the cliff.  Thelma & Louise would be proud.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This piece was originally published by the Orange County Register 

Is a financial collapse of the United States imminent?

meltdown-620Debt, like sulfuric acid, eats away at everything.

If an individual misses a home-mortgage payment, guess what will happen? Miss a few more payments and a bank or other lender will take possession of the individual’s home.

What is the case with government debt? When government goes into debt, there are few, if any, initial consequences.

When President Andrew Jackson left office in 1837, the United States had no national debt. By 1981, 144 years later, the national debt reached $1 trillion.

Today, 36 years after 1981, the national debt is $20 trillion.

America’s debt is largely financed by the purchase of American “treasuries” (bonds, bills, and notes).

During World War II, Americans bought war bonds to help defeat Germany and Japan.

Buying war bonds was considered a patriotic duty. Famous individuals (like Hollywood actors) implored Americans to buy war bonds. Americans responded enthusiastically. If they had not, taxes would have had to go much higher to pay for the war. And who bought these war bonds? Answer: Almost all of the buyers were Americans.

Today’s $20 trillion debt is financed by bond-buyers, most of whom are residents of China, Japan, Europe and the United States.

Is buying American bonds really a safe practice?

Debt is not a problem until and unless it becomes a problem.

What would happen if buyers of American bonds decided that America, for some reason, was not a safe place for buying bonds?

If the event of such an occurrence, investors might just dump American bonds. Demand for bonds would drop. A bond worth $100,000 might fall to $1,000.

In an economic crisis, holders of American dollars might lose confidence in the American currency and rush to sell whatever dollar holdings they have. Such action would be called a “speculative attack” on the dollar.

As holders of dollars engaged in massive selling, the dollar, against other currencies, would tumble. For example, today it takes $1.27 to buy a British pound. A sinking dollar might mean that the cost of a British pound would be $2.25.

Look at the euro. Today, a euro costs $1.11. If the dollar were under attack, a euro might rise to $2.50.

A declining dollar might mean that a trip to London or Paris would become too expensive. The same would be true for Americans who wanted to buy French wine or German cars.

To protect the value of the dollar, the U.S. Federal Reserve, a federally-established bank, could raise interest rates. If interest rates went from about one percent, where they are today (in terms of what is called the “federal funds” rate), to 10 percent, foreigners might want to buy American bonds. A yield of 10 percent on a presumably safe investment would be very attractive.

High interest rates, however, could mean that a home mortgage that now has an interest rate of four percent – about $1,400 a month for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage on a $1 million dollar loan – might rise to $14,000 a month. How many Americans could afford a mortgage that required a payment of $14,000 a month? (A payment of $14,000 a month would require a borrower to pay $50 million over 30 years.)

High interest rates would bring housing construction to a halt. Car loans and other loans might not be affordable.

The consequences of high interest rates would be that construction workers, automobile workers, and others would lose their jobs, creating a severe recession or an economic depression. Unemployment could reach 30 percent or higher as it did in the 1930s.

There may never be a day of reckoning over America’s current massive debt. But history teaches otherwise.

In 1940, when Great Britain was already fighting in World War II, a British pound cost $4.03. After the war (in 1945), a British pound cost $2.80. As the post-war years continued, Britain repeatedly devalued the pound so that it now costs, as stated above, $1.27.

In this writer’s opinion, the United States is operating like someone who has used a credit card to buy a Rolls-Royce. Eventually, the bill comes due.

If one looks at the value of the 1970 American dollar, today that dollar is worth 15 cents.

American’s ought to be prepared for an economic collapse. In such a case, it might be wise to own gold because no one might want worthless dollars.

Be prepared for America to become the next Greece.

Are you listening, Donald Trump?

Meanwhile – Back In The Real World

CNN sad faces on Ga election night 5-20-17My temperance mentor W.C. Fields had a saying: “Never give a sucker an even break nor smarten up a chump.” At the risk of smartening up the media, Democrats and George Soros-funded “resistance” chumps, I’d like to remind the rest of us that outside of the Left-wing bubble things are going quite swimmingly in the real world.

Ever since Donald Trump won the presidency, liberals have comforted themselves by saying it was all a mistake. They assume he is foolish, self-indulgent and incompetent. Much like the campaign last fall, the Left has believed their media cheerleaders that all was well – that by now Trump would be on the ropes or gone and the GOP would be reeling from electoral disasters.

The crown jewel was going to be Democrats capturing Georgia’s 6th Congressional district in the special election last Tuesday. The stars were in alignment. Their candidate had received 48% + in the April primary election, just a few thousand votes short of the 50% that would have given him victory.  His Republican opponent for the runoff received 18% in the primary.

Manhattan, Georgetown, San Francisco and Hollywood loved the Democrat Jon Ossoff, eventually providing his campaign with $32 million. Ossoff outspent Republican Karen Handel by over $10 million, which in a Congressional district with 500,000 voters is a huge amount. The Democrats, drinking deeply of the media-supplied Kool Aid, insisted that the election was a “referendum” on President Trump.

There were more traditional Democrat vs. Republican issues that could have been the race’s focus. But the Democrat rabid left, the Soros and Resistance looney tunes who now set the tone for the party, needed a pound of Trump flesh. In his announcement speech Ossoff said he was running “to make Trump furious.” The race did not need to be a referendum on President Trump. The Democrats made it so. They lost. President Trump won, again. He and the GOP are now 4 for 4 in special elections. (For UCLA grads that means the Republicans have won 100% of them.)

Republican Handel beat Ossoff 52% to 48%. Without going into deep psephology, the result is much worse for the Democrats than that margin makes it appear. In 2016 the Democrat candidate in this district raised $0 for his campaign and received 124,917 votes. $32 million was spent for Jon Ossoff for this election. He received 124,893 votes. The more the voters heard and understood the Democrat message the more votes Handel picked up. As Ohio Democrat Congressman Tim Ryan morosely but accurately observed the day after the election, “Our brand is worse than Trump’s.”

Ryan was spot-on, which brings us to the real world, where the Democrats are in a world of hurt. President Trump is dong to them and the media what cat owners do with those red dot laser pointers. Point it so the dot appears on one wall and the cat runs full speed at it, often crashing head first into the wall. Point it at the opposite wall and the cat rushes over there, often crashing head first into that wall.  Then point it at the sofa and the cat races there to catch it. But it never does.

President Trump’s latest “go chase the red dot, you dolts” moment with the media and Democrats was his trolling them on having taped his conversations with former FBI Director Comey. The Left furiously chased that red dot for several months, bumping into the walls labelled “no proof.” The president turned the laser pointer off a couple of days ago by announcing that he really didn’t tape anything, leaving the media and Democrats with egg on their faces and much of America with a large smile on theirs.

While the Democrats, media and the Soros-funded Left continue to chase the red dot of Russian “collusion,” conservative judges are being appointed, the economy is roaring ahead, federal regulations are being eviscerated, basic American industries are being revitalized and Republicans continue to win elections.

Some liberals not totally invested in the Trump-as-Hitler narrative are catching on. Katrina vanden Heuvel, the very liberal editor and publisher of the very liberal “The Nation” wrote a piece about how the media is being duped and played for fools by the Trump administration. Her point is that there is nothing to the Russian kerfuffle but the Left’s total focus on it allows Trump to advance his agenda while liberals are searching for Boris and Natasha in the Lincoln Bedroom. While the Left is looking for Russians, President Trump is implementing his conservative agenda.

Twenty-one constitutional conservatives have now been nominated for Federal judgeships, with dozens more in the pipeline. New jobs are being created at near record numbers. The number of Americans dropping out of the workforce is steadily declining for the first time since George W. Bush was president. Federal regulations are being slashed and burned. Coal mines are re-opening in Pennsylvania. Small business, which employs 70% of the total American workforce, finds itself free from Big Brother and able to operate at a profit. Thanks to our withdrawal from the bogus Paris climate “accords,” American industry can ignore the dictates of socialist European bureaucrats. The stock market has responded with a series of record highs.

The American people are taking note. The headline on the results of a a recent CNBC national survey is, “Economic Optimism Surges To Record High As Trump Gets Credit For The Economy.”  The take away lines from survey are: “The latest CNBC ‘All American Survey’ finds that 30% of the public are both optimistic about the economy now and for the future, the second quarter in a row that present-future optimism scored so high. That’s the highest reading in the survey’s 10-year history.”

The Democrats are now paying the price for the nearly year-long plunge into the fever swamps of Trump Derangement. They and their Media/Soros paid allies chortle about President Trump’s approval ratings that hover in the low-to-mid 40s. It should be sobering to Democrats that a CBS News poll released the morning of the Georgia election found that only 31 percent of Americans thought a Democratic takeover of Congress would make their lives better.

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni is very liberal, but like Katrina vanden Heuvel a realistic one. The day after the Georgia election he wrote, “So a party sorely demoralized in November is demoralized yet again — and left to wonder if the intense anti-Trump passion visible in protests, marches, money and new volunteers isn’t just some theatrical, symbolic, abstract thing.”

Theatrical, symbolic and abstract perfectly sums up the “resistance” to President Trump. Or to paraphrase Shakespeare in Macbeth, it is “a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

The resistance hit its high water mark last Tuesday in Georgia and will slowly recede. The Democrat base activists are demoralized and confused, feeling like children whose parents tell them that Santa is coming the next morning – every day for 6 months.

In the real world, where Santa is not coming tomorrow morning, some people hate President Trump.  Many more people hate liberals. That’s real news, in the real world, and is good news for America.

Bill Saracino is a member of the Editorial Board of CA Political Review.

Orange County fire captain rakes in over $500,000 thanks to soaring overtime pay

A $245,350 overtime payout — the 13th largest of the more than 1.3 million public workers surveyed statewide — boosted Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) captain Gregory Bradshaw’s total compensation to $508,495 last year, an amount more than four times greater than his $116,846 salary.

While Bradshaw was OCFA’s top earner, his fellow fire captains weren’t too far behind, with the average fire captain having received $301,791 in pay and benefits last year — according to an analysis of freshly released 2016 salary data published on TransparentCalifornia.com.

In 2014, an OCFA board member expressed frustration over “an accounting gimmick used to generate significant overtime costs,” according to an Orange County Register report.

While the Board’s concerns led to the implementation of an overtime cap effective April 1, 2015, overtime pay continued to rise nonetheless — with last year’s $47 million expenditure representing a more than 18 percent increase from the previous year.

The continued growth in overtime pay was also evident on an individual employee basis: The 44 OCFA employees who received overtime pay in excess of $100,000 last year represent a nearly threefold increase from the previous year, when there were only 15 employees who earned that much.

Transparent California’s research director Robert Fellner noted an alarming trend where a handful of employees who had received overtime in excess of their regular salary in the preceding years actually increased their overtime pay in 2016, after the cap was in place.

“Several employees who were already more than doubling their salary from overtime pay actually saw an increase after the cap took effect — which suggests that cap might need to be tightened a bit.”

To explore the full OCFA dataset as well as historical data dating back to 2011, please click here.

Orange County cities

Transparent California — the state’s largest and most accurate public pay database — recently added 2016 pay data for 411 California cities and 49 counties.

The site now features 2016 data from every Orange County city but Placentia — which has not yet replied to a public records request for this information.

“It is disheartening that Placentia has not yet responded to our records request, but we very much appreciate the professionalism of all the other Orange County governments who facilitated our request in a prompt manner.”

Overtime pay up 19% at Anaheim

The City of Anaheim was home to the 5 largest overtime payouts of any Orange County city surveyed:

  • Fire Engineer III Brian Pollema’s $204,458 OT pay boosted his total compensation to $403,528.
  • Fire Fighter III Daniel Lambert’s $186,228 OT pay boosted his total compensation to $357,184.
  • Fire Engineer III David Shimogawa’s $163,325 OT pay boosted his total compensation to $338,937.
  • Fire Captain Mark Dunn’s $157,673 OT pay boosted his total compensation to $372,496.
  • Senior Electrical Utility Inspector Kenneth Heffernan’s $155,356 OT pay boosted his total compensation to $300,917.

Of the 148 California cities with at least $1 million in overtime pay surveyed, the average year over year increase in overtime pay was 5 percent.

Anaheim’s 19 percent increase in overtime pay was the most of any Orange County city and the 13th largest statewide.

The next four cities with the largest overtime pay increases in Orange County were:

  • Buena Park: 18.5 percent, 14th largest statewide.
  • Irvine: 17 percent, 17th largest statewide.
  • Costa Mesa: 17 percent, 21st largest statewide.
  • Fullerton: 14 percent, 30th largest statewide.

Orange County pay data

In 2015, the only Orange County worker to make over $400,000 in pay and benefits was Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, who received total compensation of $400,214.

The 2016 county payroll data reveals 11 workers making over $400,000 — with two county psychiatrists topping $500,000 apiece.

Total compensation at the county experienced a much milder increase, however, rising only 3 percent to just under $2 billion last year.

To view the complete datasets in a searchable and downloadable format, please visit www.TransparentCalifornia.com.

Judge allows lawsuit on life-ending drugs for terminally ill

As reported by the Associated Press:

A judge on Friday allowed a legal challenge to proceed against California’s law letting terminally ill patients seek prescriptions for life-ending drugs.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia ruled that a group of doctors had provided sufficient information for a lawsuit over the 2016 law allowing medically-assisted death.

California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra had argued that the suit should be dismissed because doctors aren’t bound to issue these prescriptions and the law merely offers patients a choice. But Ottolia found that the plaintiffs had alleged enough information to argue that the law violates the state’s constitution by treating terminally ill people distinctly from others contemplating taking their lives.

“This is a violation of both the equal protection and due process clause of the constitution,” plaintiffs’ attorney Stephen Larson told reporters after the ruling.

California is one of a number of states where terminally ill patients can get prescriptions to take life-ending drugs, along with Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana. …

Click here to read the full article

Recall effort stymied by Sacramento

Members of the California Legislature apparently believe they have the power to change outcomes they don’t like. This is like awarding the NBA Championship to Cleveland by retroactively mandating that all of Golden State’s three point baskets be counted as only two.

While basketball is not on the minds of lawmakers, they are working to interfere with something of much greater value to average Californians, their constitutional right to recall elected officials. The Sacramento politicians think they have found a way to derail what appears to be a successful grassroots effort to recall state Sen. Josh Newman, who cast a key vote imposing a new $5.2 billion annual gas and car tax on already overburdened taxpayers.

The power of recall is a powerful tool of direct democracy. The secretary of state’s website says, “Recall is the power of the voters to remove elected officials before their terms expire. It has been a fundamental part of our governmental system since 1911 and has been used by voters to express their dissatisfaction with their elected representatives.”

In the 29th Senate District, covering parts of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, voters have been busy exercising their right to recall their tax-raising representative Josh Newman. Much to the surprise of Sacramento insiders, it looks like the campaign will succeed in gathering enough signatures to force the senator to be held accountable in a special election — already the secretary of state has instructed county registrars to begin counting the signatures. The chance that the recall of one of their own will be successful has lawmakers panicking. Their solution is to surreptitiously change the recall rules that have been in place for over a century.

500px-Capitol_Building_MG_1600_Sans_watermarkWith little notice, the Legislature amended Senate Bill 96, as it was about to pass in connection with the state budget on June 15, for the purpose of changing the rules governing the current recall effort. The purpose of the bill is shamelessly transparent: “It is the Legislature’s intent that the changes made by this act in the Elections Code apply retroactively to recalls that are pending at any stage at the time of the act’s enactment… .”

Their end game is delay. They want to delay the ultimate vote on ousting Newman for as long as possible, despite the constitutional guarantee to have the vote as quickly as possible — between 60 days and 180 days from the recall petitions having been certified.

Here’s how they do it: First, they try to delay the petition review process by requiring the county Registrars of Voters to check the validity of every signature submitted. Normally, the registrars are permitted to check a random sample of the signatures, saving both time and money.

Second, and more disturbing, is the provision buried deep in the text that states, “Notwithstanding any other law, the Secretary of State shall not certify the sufficiency of the signatures [on the recall petitions] until the Legislative Joint Budget Committee has 30 days to review and comment on the estimate [of recall costs] submitted by the Department of Finance.”

Here’s the kicker. The Department of Finance is part of the governor’s office and the bill does not require the governor’s office to prepare that analysis under any time limit. Gov. Brown, who has already come out against the recall, can simply delay that report indefinitely, which, in turn, would hold up certification of the recall effort and the ultimate election.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that those in power in Sacramento will stop at nothing to retain their power and influence, putting their own interests ahead of those of average Californians. But lawmakers who disrespect voters should be wary. Polls show that nearly 60 percent of Californians oppose the new gas tax. The higher taxes will kick in just before the beginning of next year’s election season. Voters are very likely to remember who is responsible and choose to retire multiple representatives, not just a single senator, in the regularly scheduled 2018 election.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This piece was originally published by the Orange County Register

When does the California minimum wage go up again?

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation raising California’s mandatory minimum to $15 an hour by 2022. California saw its first increase in January 2017, as the minimum wage increased from $10 to $10.50 an hour.

Even though California didn’t see the nation’s biggest minimum wage increase, the raise produced the largest increase in total wages in the country, according to the Bee’s Foon Rhee.

So when is the next one coming?

The next increase in minimum wage is in just over six months, on Jan. 1, 2018, according to the State of California’s Department of Industrial Relations.

For employers with 26 employees or more, the minimum wage will increase by another 50 cents this year, before …

Click here to read the full article

Democrats push new rules to help them win an election

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Democrats are pushing late-blooming bills to significantly improve state Sen. Josh Newman’s odds of surviving an effort by the state GOP and others to recall him from office.

The proposed changes, which became public Monday morning, would add months to the existing timeline of certifying a recall election for the ballot. The measure would virtually assure that any recall election would be held at the regularly scheduled June 5, 2018 legislative primary election.

Regular election turnout historically is much higher than turnout for special elections, which helps Democrats.

The effort to recall Newman, D-Fullerton, began soon after his April 6 vote for a road-funding plan that will raise taxes on gas and diesel and vehicle fees by billions of dollars. Newman, who represents an area that has long had Republican representation, won election last fall by just 2,498 votes.

Republican lawmakers and other recall supporters denounced Monday’s legislation as an abuse of power. …

Click here to read the full story

Now is the time for commonsense tax reform

TaxesThe world has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. The Internet allows anyone in the world to connect with the click of a button; we’ve achieved great medical advances, economic growth in California, and locally, the population of Stanislaus County has almost doubled.

But one thing that has stayed the same through all of it is the U.S. tax code. Passed in 1986, the behemoth 75,000 page and 2.4 million-words document remains much the same. While there have been some patchwork fixes over the years, the core problems remain.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. With Republicans controlling both Congress and the White House, the political and legislative environment is ripe for reform. House Republicans have released the most prominent tax reform plan to date. Supported by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, the “Better Way” tax reform plan is a good start toward modernizing the tax code.

After hearing promise after promise on the campaign trail, it is refreshing to see political leaders in Washington step up to the plate and present a plan that would reform the individual tax code, broaden the tax base and simplify the entire code. If implemented, the House Republicans’ plan would increase the size of the economy, boost wages, and result in more full-time jobs.

As Vice Chair of the Californian Republican Party and Supervisor in Stanislaus County, I constantly hear remarks from Californians about the outdated, overly complex tax code. And I feel the same frustrations myself. Whether it’s personal stories or complaints about the high combined state and federal tax rate, the message is the same – the current tax code is outdated and isn’t working for America. In order to modernize it, we need to make the system fair, simple and efficient.

Californians want a new tax code that is pro-growth and that allows them to provide for themselves and their families. There are thousands of small businesses in California who spend countless hours and valuable resources to comply with the tax code when they would rather spend that time and money growing their business and creating more jobs. This important demographic of our economy is being left behind while big business exploits and benefits from our tax system’s loopholes.

Californians want a system that is fair and simple. They don’t just want fewer headaches come April 15th; they want to be able to see and understand where their hard-earned money is going and that everyone- individuals and businesses- are paying their reasonable and fair amount.

Despite other issues dominating the news in Washington, now is the time for our federal elected officials to pass commonsense tax reform. Promises have been made, and we need those promises to be kept. Tax reform must be done so the economy can grow and more Californians can get back to work.

Kristin Olsen sits on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors and is a former member of the California Assembly.

Democrats want to extend health coverage to undocumented immigrants

Health for allCalifornia’s Democratic legislators want to extend health benefits to undocumented young adults, the continuation of an effort that ushered children without legal status into the state’s publicly funded health care system last year.

It is unclear when the program would start or how much the state would spend if the proposal, which could cost up to $85 million a year, is approved by Gov. Jerry Brown. Lawmakers are working out details ahead of their June 15 deadline for passing a new budget.

The plan would provide full-scope coverage for 19-to-26-year-olds who qualify for Medi-Cal, the state’s name for Medicaid. Currently, the federally funded program covers only emergency visits and prenatal care for undocumented residents. Under the proposal, revenue from taxes on tobacco products would absorb expenses for all other coverage.

Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens has been one of the strongest voices for expanded care. In 2015, he pushed for coverage for all adults. That proposal was changed to admit only undocumented children; it took effect last year. This year, he said in a recent video message to supporters, “We are going to make the final push to ensure we capture our young adults.”

Supporters’ ultimate goal is to include all undocumented adults, said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a health care consumer group backing the proposal.

“We believe without coverage people are sicker, die younger and are one emergency away from financial ruin. It has consequences for their families and their communities — both health and financial consequences,” he said.

The plan would mean that undocumented children currently in the program would not age out at 19, putting low-income undocumented immigrants on a par with those allowed to stay on their parents’ insurance under Obamacare until they are 26.

Sen. John Moorlach, a Costa Mesa Republican, opposes an extension of benefits. One reason is financial. California doesn’t have “a balance sheet we can brag about,” he said, citing the state’s debt load, among other reasons.

Secondly, he disapproves of illegal immigration. Moorlach migrated to the U.S. legally as a child with his family from the Netherlands.

“I’m kind of offended that we feel an obligation to pay for expenses for those who did not come through the front door,” he said. “I certainly have compassion and want to help people in need, but I’m having difficulty, as a legal immigrant, because we are already in such bad fiscal shape.”

Advocates argue that undocumented immigrants help propel California’s economy with their labor and the taxes they pay, and that they cost the state money when they don’t work because of illness or when they end up in the emergency room.

“Health care is a right,” said Ronald Coleman, director of government affairs for the California Immigrant Policy Center, an advocacy organization and supporter of the proposal. “These are folks we are investing in through the California Dream Act and through other programs our state offers, and it makes sense to invest in our future, which our young adults will be.”

Estimates vary for how many people this expansion of Medi-Cal would serve and what the costs would be. Each house of the Legislature has passed its own version of the proposal, with differing figures attached.

The Assembly allocated $54 million a year to cover an unspecified number of additional enrollees, with a July 2017 start date. The Senate proposed $63.1 million in the first year, beginning in 2018, and $85 million annually thereafter, also without specific population numbers.

Coleman’s center, which is working closely with lawmakers on the issue, estimates about 80,000 new people would be eligible, and the cost would be around $54 million a year. That assumes the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program continues, because it provides access to Medi-Cal. If  DACA were eliminated, the figures would increase to about 100,000 eligible people and about $84 million in annual costs, Coleman said.

The governor’s proposed budget does not include the proposed expansion or any money for it.

Kevin, a 19-year-old Angeleno who asked that only his first name be used because he lives in California illegally, wants the proposal to succeed. He has been working for more than a year to distribute information about Medi-Cal children’s coverage to immigrant families.

He meets all but one of the requirements for DACA: He was not in the country before June 15, 2007. He arrived in the U.S. in 2011 at age 14 from Guatemala, on a visa that later expired. He graduated high school, has no criminal record and is now majoring in Business Administration at California State University, Los Angeles.

“There’s this misunderstanding that young people are healthy,” said Kevin, who suffers from eczema. He worries about the chronic condition flaring up. “When it gets worse, it doesn’t let me do anything with my hands.”

He is enrolled in a county health insurance program for low-income residents, but he can’t afford a dermatologist. He can barely pay for the prescription lotion he uses for the eczema and sometimes goes without it.

“We are trying to have a better economic standard, and we are like the building blocks of this society,” he said. “Having health insurance will allow us to focus more on school and do our regular day-to-day activities. A healthier society works better for everyone.”

If lawmakers can now agree on details, a consensus proposal will go to the full Legislature for approval. The deadline for that is June 12.

This piece was originally published by CalMatters.org