Commentary: California ruling on in-home care wages should be respected by fed

This editorial appeared in The Sacramento Bee.

Banks, insurance companies and automakers have already learned that once you go on the federal dole, Uncle Sam gets to tell you what to do. Now it's California's turn.

The Obama administration has informed officials here that the state will lose nearly $7 billion in federal stimulus money unless California rescinds a measure passed earlier this year cutting state aid to counties.

At issue are the wages paid to workers who care for elderly and disabled people in their homes. The state had been reimbursing counties up to $12.10 an hour for the cost of these workers. But facing a severe budget crisis, the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reduced that subsidy to a maximum of $10.10 an hour as part of the compromise budget package passed in February.

The federal notice to California came after complaints from the Service Employees International Union, which represents the in-home care workers and was a big supporter of Barack Obama's presidential campaign last year. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ruled the cuts improper because the federal stimulus money was supposed to expand local government services, not back-fill for money cut by the state.

The budget cut was expected to save the state only $74 million in a $42 billion package of cuts, taxes and borrowing to help balance a budget that is close to $100 billion. The easy route for California would be to bow to the federal master and repeal the provision.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.

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