Sacramento Bee Examines Schwarzenegger Proposal To Reduce State Contribution to IHHS Worker Wages
The Sacramento Bee on Thursday examined budget reductions proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) for the In-Home Supportive Services program, which provides services for low-income seniors and state residents with disabilities, as part of an effort to balance the $111.7 billion state budget.
Under the proposal, the state would reduce the hourly wage contribution for IHSS workers to $6.75 from as much as $10.10 and no longer contribute to their health insurance costs. The state estimates that the proposal would save about $260 million annually.
According to the Bee, the proposal "pits the Republican governor against highly organized opponents" who last year "rallied, lobbied and ultimately persuaded the administration to drop a similar proposal." However, success "seems unlikely this year," the Bee reports.
The Schwarzenegger administration maintains that the state would not reduce the actual wages of IHHS workers. Shirley Washington, a spokesperson for the Department of Social Services, said, "Counties determine the wages."
According to the Bee, however, "if the state reduced its share of wages, cash-strapped local governments might have to pick up the tab until contracts expire over the next two years, after which unions fear wages could drop." IHHS workers "say wage cuts could force them to find new jobs," and advocates "warn that patients will suffer, saying the higher wages have meant better worker retention, which is considered one of several factors that contribute to quality care," the Bee reports.
One survey of San Francisco county IHHS workers found that one-year retention rates increased to 74% in 2001 after wages were increased to about $10 per hour, compared with 39% in 1997, when wages were $5 per hour. In addition, research conducted by Connecticut College economist Candace Howes found that turnover rates among IHHS workers in San Francisco County would increase to 56% if wages were reduced to $6.75 per hour (Osterman, Sacramento Bee, 1/20).