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Gov. targets social-services fraud, waste

July 6, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
California is out of money and deeper in debt as the budget crisis has forced the state to issue more IOUs Monday. There has been a push to help balance the budget by eliminating programs the governor says are fraudulent or wasteful.Ten-thousand more IOUs went out to pay California's bills, with more to go as long as the state budget mess hasn't been solved.

A clearly frustrated assembly speaker boycotted morning negotiations, a sign things aren't going so well.

"In my opinion, they're getting worse because I believe we're not talking about the subject," said Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles). "We need to be talking about closing the deficit."

Leaders have been bickering about social services for weeks now. Republicans and the governor are holding out for a complete overhaul of California's welfare system to help weed out fraud and abuse, a move Democrats are not willing to tackle right away.

"All those proposals are being met with tremendous amount of resistance because the legislators -- many of them have more interest in protecting the people that provide those services rather than the people that receive those services," said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-California).

The governor talked to prosecutors from several counties about fraud in In-Home Support Services (IHSS) alone. Of the $4 billion spent annually to help the aged, blind and disabled, the governor estimates as much as a quarter is spent illegally.

"Just six cases this year, we had $1.4 million in fraud in IHSS. Just in six cases. So the proof is there," said John Spillane, L.A. County chief deputy district attorney.

Ricardo Hagen is a state-paid caregiver who's willing to get fingerprinted, as the governor is proposing.

"That sounds good to me," said Hagen. "That'd weed out a lot of people that don't deserve the program. There's a lot of people that do abuse it. I've seen it. I've watched it happen."

But Speaker Bass insists the governor is overstating the fraud and dismissed his thoughts on televising budget talks like a reality show.

"I'm not going to participate in a reality show," said Bass. "I just think it completely minimizes the crisis that we're dealing with to turn into a TV show."

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