Like Jennifer, I’m an advocate of increased legal immigration. I believe immigration is a net positive. There is no question that today’s illegal immigrants are a net burden to California’s government-provided social services. But the place to look for the root of that problem is California policy.
If you don’t have an ever-expanding list of entitlement benefits, illegal immigrants can’t take advantage of it. The original problem is the expansion of benefits and “services” well beyond anything that makes sense. The authors of that problem are in the statehouse in Sacramento. The key reasons why state expenditures on social services have increased dramatically in the last quarter-century are the following: the scope of benefits has expanded; the eligibility standards have been loosened; and the state has expanded its own payroll to include hundreds of analysts and managers who function as advocates for enlarging their programs.
In 1999, for example, California’s Healthy Families program made families eligible for state health benefits at incomes up to 250 percent of the poverty level. Then, in the 2000s, the list of state benefits lengthened significantly. By 2009, with the housing market and the overall economy crashing, Governor Schwarzenegger had to freeze enrollments in the program. It had driven the state’s direct expenditures on medical services up from a little over $8 billion in the 1999 budget to more than $14.3 billion in 2007. (Budget figures here.)
From 1985 to the high-water spending year of 2008, California’s total state expenditures on health and social services — in non-adjusted dollars — rose from $8.64 billion to $29.34 billion. In adjusted dollars (adjusting the 1985 figure to $17.28 billion), the difference represents an increase in social spending of 64 percent in that 23-year period, while the population increased only 39 percent. Read More