State Lawmakers Threaten Funding Loss Unless Los Angeles County Boosts Pay for Home Care Workers
Attempting to "intervene in a Los Angeles County labor dispute," state lawmakers are "threatening to withhold" $50 million in state funding for services for children and the mentally ill unless the county agrees to raise wages for home care workers, the Los Angeles Times reports. Under a proposal by Assembly member Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), which was included in the Assembly version of the state's FY 2001-2002 budget, Los Angeles County would lose about 15% -- or $50 million -- of its share of the sales- and use-tax revenue and vehicle license fees collected by the state. The funding would be restored, however, if the county agrees to increase home care workers' salaries, which have "lagged behind" wages earned by home care workers in other parts of the state. To regain its funding, the county would have to raise home care workers' wages from the current rate of $6.75 per hour to $8.50 per hour. Cedillo said, "Home care workers are very critical. We want to encourage the county to ... move them toward a liveable wage." Proponents of the wage increase say that the workers provided services that "help save the state and the county -- the former more than the latter -- millions of dollars" by enabling seniors and the disabled to live at home and "avoid entering nursing homes or other costly facilities at government expense." But county officials say that because home care workers save the state more money, the state should "bear the brunt" of the cost of wage increases.
County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said that state lawmakers could be setting a "dangerous precedent," adding that the wage dispute "is a matter that should be settled between the workers and the county." In addition, county officials say that the wage increase would cost more than $40 million at a time when rising energy costs are already straining county coffers. But Tyrone Freeman, general manager of Service Employees International Union Local 434B, which represents the workers, said that based on his analysis of the county's proposed budget, the county has "more than enough money to give the home care workers raises without cutting programs" (Tamaki, Los Angeles Times, 6/1).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.