California Officials Question Union’s Role in Federal Stimulus Ruling
Officials in the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) are questioning whether the Service Employees International Union had an improper role in the Obama administration's decision to withhold $6.8 billion in economic stimulus funds if the state does not rescind a provision of the state budget agreement that reduced the state's contribution to wages for home health care workers participating in the In-Home Supportive Services program, the Los Angeles Times reports.
SEIU represents many IHSS workers, and officials for the union participated in a conference call with state and federal officials to discuss the wage cut and requirements for the state to receive the stimulus funding.
California Health and Human Services Secretary Kim BelshÃ© said, "The involvement of a stakeholder in this kind of state-federal deliberative process is unusual at best."
SEIU spokesperson Michelle Ringuette dismissed as "absurd" suggestions that the union's role in the discussions was inappropriate.
The Obama administration did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.
About the Cut
In the state budget agreement approved in February, lawmakers approved reducing the state's contribution to IHSS workers' wages from $12.10 per hour to $10.10 per hour. The cut is scheduled to take effect July 1.
The Obama administration maintains that the cut violates requirements for the stimulus funding because local governments would have to make up for the state's reduced contribution, but California officials assert that counties' can reduce IHSS workers' wages if state funding for the program drops.
SEIU officials dispute the state's assertion.
Rescinding the wage cut would require approval from two-thirds of California legislators.
Governor's AppealSchwarzenegger has appealed to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to reverse the decision.Â She has not ruled on the decision (Los Angeles Times, 5/11). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.