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In a twist, Republicans rail against cuts at union rally

January 27, 2011 |  1:16 pm

It was a sight to behold on a cold, foggy morning in partisan Sacramento: a parade of three Republican legislators stepping up to a podium marked “No More Cuts” to rail against spending reductions at a union rally.

Democrats and Republicans came together Thursday with a common purpose of protecting a program for the poor, in a strange alliance that was forged, in part, through Bible study.

Flanked by people in wheelchairs and protesters in green union T-shirts, the Republicans echoed Democratic talking points in opposing Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to slash in-home care for hundreds of thousands of elderly, blind and disabled.

“Why is Paul Cook here?” the GOP assemblyman from Yucaipa began, asking the question on everyone’s mind.

Because, Cook said, slashing the care program would actually drive up costs, forcing the frail into more costly nursing homes. Sure, he was “never going to convince” some of his GOP colleagues. But he was ready to fight for the unionized program that most Republicans made a favored bogeyman for government largesse.

“I believe in it,” Cook said to raucous applause.

State-subsidized in-home care such as shopping, laundry and housework for the frail and disabled, often provided by family members living with the recipients, has been the object of GOP charges of waste and fraud, and assailed as a symbol of Democrats’ unrestrained appetite for spending.

Not Thursday.

GOP Assemblyman Brian Nestande of Palm Desert said more cuts do “not make sense.” Assemblyman Jim Silva (R-Huntington Beach) declared, “This is not a program that can be cut because it will be more expensive in the long run.”

All three Republicans have signed no-tax-increase pledges. None of them have endorsed Brown’s approach to balancing the budget through a mix of cuts and taxes. And they offered no guidance as to what they would slash instead of home care, a nearly $500-million part of the governor’s budget fix, other than that it be something else.

Brown spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford said of the rally: "Cuts are never popular. We expect that this is the first in a series of bipartisan protests against the cuts that the governor has proposed."

State Sen. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego), an event organizer and one of several Democrats to speak at the rally, saw it differently. "They bravely stood up," he said.

Vargas, who, like Brown, is a former Jesuit seminarian-turned-politician, said he knew some of the Republicans from weekly Bible study sessions they attend. And, he said, contrary to popular belief in Sacramento, where party affiliation often trumps all else, even Republicans care for the downtrodden.

"If you reach out to them, you’ll see they’ll stand for the right things," he said.

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento

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