State Issues

Jeff Denham: CALWORKS Reform Makes Sense

Lost in all the rhetoric and false accusations about the Governor's proposal to reform CALWORKS (the state's welfare system) are the facts. While the liberal Democrat leadership of the Senate and Assembly try to portray this proposal conforming to federal law as somehow throwing single mothers and kids out into the streets, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Let's look at the facts about the proposal to reform, and we believe, strengthen, the CALWORKS system:

The only people "thrown off" off welfare (after still being allowed on it for 5 years!) will be felons, illegal aliens, and persons who don't comply with such "draconian rules" as trying to find a job. Let me repeat - the reform we are seeking that the liberal Democrats oppose merely seeks to end the gravy-train of felons and illegal aliens after five years. For the first five years we can't even touch them. Quite frankly, this five-year free ride for law breakers is still too much but we can only imagine the "outrage" if we proposed reforming this "entitlement" any further.

This CALWORKS reform was not diabolically devised by the 15 Republican members of the State Senate, but rather it was proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger in January of this year. He based it on a federal mandate enacted by President William Jefferson Clinton back in 1996. The irony here is that this so-called heartless, harsh and mean-spirited welfare reform proposal was signed into law by the liberal Democrats' own hero. So if the liberal Democrat leaders of the Senate and Assembly have anyone to blame, they might want to direct their anger at the former President from Arkansas.

If California does not somehow reform CALWORKS as mandated by the federal government, the state will be fined $150 million the first year we refuse and almost $400 million the next year and up from there. 48 other states have already complied and avoided these fines. So let's see, should we protect felons and illegal aliens and lose hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars, or should we do our best to reform CALWORKS and save the program for the real people who need it, such as persons who are not criminals but are looking to better their life by trying to return to work and just need a little temporary assistance? Not a tough choice for most Californians.

The bottom line is that the reforms proposed to CALWORKS, which could save hundreds of millions of dollars and help solve the state budget stalemate, are reasonable and are basically mandated by federal law. Welfare was never intended to be a lifetime source of income for anyone who is able-bodied and able to work - it is meant as a short-term, helping hand. The perverse twisting of this program into a lifeline for felons and illegal aliens is something that must stop. The overwhelming majority of Californians would agree. Perhaps soon my legislative colleagues will wake up and realize this too.

Denham, a Republican, represents the 12th Senate District, which includes all of Merced County and part of Stanislaus County.

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