SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – The war of words escalated Monday between Democratic leaders in the nation’s biggest state and Donald Trump after the Republican president said California is “out of control” and suggested withholding federal funding.
In separate statements Monday, the leaders of the state Legislature pointed to California’s massive economy and strong job growth, saying the state provides critical contributions to the nation.
“If this is what Donald Trump thinks is ‘out of control,’ I’d suggest other states should be more like us,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount.
RELATED: Trump Calls California ‘Out Of Control,’ Threatens To Cut Off Federal Funding
Trump criticized California during a Fox News interview broadcast on Sunday.
“California in many ways is out of control as you know,” he told Fox anchor Bill O’Reilly “Obviously the voters agree or otherwise they wouldn’t have voted for me.”
Responding to questions from O’Reilly, Trump said California’s consideration of legislation to create a statewide sanctuary for people living in the country illegally is “ridiculous.”
Trump opposes sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
“They breed crime, there’s a lot of problems. We have to well, defund, we give tremendous amounts of money to California,” Trump said.
O’Reilly asked if defunding is Trump’s “weapon of choice,” and the president responded: “I don’t want to defund anybody. I want to give them the money they need to properly operate as a city or a state. If they’re going to have sanctuary cities, we may have to do that. Certainly that would be a weapon.”
California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon said state residents contribute more to federal coffers than their state gets in return, and any sanctions against California would ripple nationwide.
“President Trump’s threat to weaponize federal funding is not only unconstitutional but emblematic of the cruelty he seeks to impose on our most vulnerable communities,” de Leon said.
Rendon, de Leon and other Democratic leaders in California have fiercely criticized Trump and vowed to fight his policies through the Legislature and in court. The Legislature has hired Eric Holder, the U.S. attorney general under President Barack Obama, to advise members on a legal strategy.
California’s nonpartisan legislative analyst reported last month that federal expenditures in the state amount to $368 billion a year, most of it to provide health care for people with low incomes.
Trump’s defunding suggestion wasn’t his first threat to use the power of the federal purse as leverage.
He also signed an executive order threatening to cut off some federal grants for sanctuary cities. Last week, in response to unrest on the campus of University of California, Berkeley, he sent a tweet saying: “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.