On January 1st, in a move that should anger every taxpayer, California became the first state in the nation to expand taxpayer-funded universal healthcare coverage to all illegal immigrants. It is estimated this will add 700,000 new people to Medi-Cal and cost more than $4 billion a year. This spending spree comes as our state is facing a $68 billion budget deficit, the biggest by dollars in state history.
As the son of immigrant parents who came to this country by legal means, I was outraged our state government would earmark billions in funding for the healthcare of foreign nationals when our own citizens cannot afford their healthcare amid skyrocketing insurance premiums, historic inflation, and the highest cost of living in the nation.
That is why, on the first day the Legislature reconvened, I introduced Assembly Bill 1783 to repeal all taxpayer funding for universal healthcare coverage for illegal immigrants. What once would have been a reasonable, bipartisan response to our massive budget deficit, has surprisingly become a point of contention in Sacramento.
Your elected officials in Sacramento seem all too willing to sell our state to the highest bidder, Republicans included. In an op-ed published in the Sacramento Bee on Friday by Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, he inexplicably defends the indefensible, titling the piece “Why a Republican lawmaker supports offering healthcare to California’s undocumented immigrants.” Never mind the fact that he voted against such an expansion not once, not twice, but three separate times over the past nine years.
We can only speculate, but as a former prosecutor I can draw reasonable inferences from the facts we know. Mathis is not seeking re-election, and apparently no longer feels compelled to represent the values of his district, 62.5% of which voted Republican in 2022. He announced he intends to pursue a career in consulting, AKA a lobbyist. Lobbying is a Sacramento game and yields a lucrative income stream. You get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to peddle power on behalf of special interests who have no regard for how Sacramento policies impact the average Californian. In other words, his sudden change of position and op-ed appears to be a signal to the Sacramento elites that he is ready for hire.
This case study reveals the deeply rotten core of legislating in the Golden State—elected officials pass destructive policies favoring special interests and, far-too-often, they are handsomely rewarded with sizable campaign contributions and cushy job offers after they leave office. The fact that a Republican is succumbing to this playbook is incredibly destructive to the brand of a party fighting to regain power in California.
Gavin Newsom and the Democratic supermajorities in the State Assembly and State Senate have spent years growing the size and cost of government, throwing billions at failing programs to combat homelessness (California accounts for 49% of all people living on the streets in the US), improve student outcomes (California boasts the lowest graduation rate out of all 50 states), and of course, provide universal healthcare to illegal immigrants.
We defeat the party in power by demonstrating stark contrast in policy positions, giving voters a clear choice at the ballot box. In a state plagued with massive corruption, Republicans must stand for the exact opposite. If we are promising to fix California, we have to maintain our credibility with the voters whose trust we seek. We don’t win by appeasing and mimicking democrats.
The necessity of passing AB 1783 cannot be overstated. It is well past time for Republicans to take a strong stand or risk being complicit in the financial decay of our state. Californians must demand accountability, fiscal sanity, and a renewed focus on the well-being of our citizens. It is not controversial to demand our politicians take care of our citizens before trying to care for the citizens of other nations. It’s common sense.
Bill Essayli was elected in 2022 to represent the 63rd State Assembly District, which includes the whole cities of Norco, Menifee, Lake Elsinore, and Canyon Lake, as well as portions of the cities of Eastvale, Riverside, and Corona. Assemblyman Essayli is a former federal prosecutor and Riverside County Deputy District Attorney. He is also a small business owner as partner at the estate planning law firm of Essayli & Brown LLP.