This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.
Lawmakers will have a hard enough time carving $5 billion out of state spending this year without the courts second-guessing what they can cut and what they can’t.
One federal judge, Marsha Pechman, has countermanded the Legislature’s decision to stop funding the Food Assistance Program for Legal Immigrants. Lawmakers had expected to save $60 million over the next biennium by ending the program, which helps pay the grocery bills of some needy immigrants who aren’t eligible for food stamps.
Responding to a class action lawsuit on behalf of those immigrants, Pechman decided that the Legislature was probably violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. The theory: Because the state helps fund aid for immigrants who are eligible for the federal program, it must do the same for immigrants who aren’t. State attorneys have appealed to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
This is a No Good Deed Goes Unpunished ruling. Expanding the assistance to non-eligible immigrants was purely discretionary on the part of the state, and no federal money was involved. It now turns out – if Pechman’s logic is upheld – that lawmakers can choose to extend help but can’t choose to withdraw it when they run out of revenues. Read more »