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Budget cuts hurt us all

02/24/2012 1:30:21 PM
Budget cuts to human services don’t save money.

According to every economic model in the history of this great nation, municipalities eliminating social programs find that the people who require those services do not disappear. They show up instead in emergency rooms, in shelters unable to accommodate them, and in an already overburdened judicial system.

Witness the budget cuts to mental health services in Illinois, where Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart told the Chicago News Cooperative that the jails are overwhelmed with people should be getting mental health services: “It’s so screwed up that I’ve become the largest mental health provider in the state.”

Taxpayers will still pay to provide for people in need. But in most cases they’ll do it poorly, and pay more for it.

Gov. Corbett’s proposed cuts to services for our most vulnerable citizens will cost hundreds of jobs, deprive thousands of people in need, and ravage a human services system already stretched thin. They will not save money. And as an added benefit, they’ll ruin people’s lives.

Good times.

Gov. Corbett’s 2012-13 state budget takes another run at balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable citizens. They’re not even pretending to eliminate waste or find new revenues; they’re just cutting. They’ll talk about tough choices, but that’s an insulting cop out. This is not a tough choice – they’re just beating up on the weak, because there is no giant lobbying arm called “People Who Need Food and Shelter, Inc.”

And so the governor proposes hitting people who are already hurting. The maddening thing is that the state requires community organizations to provide services, and then simply doesn’t pay for those services.

“The Governor’s budget as proposed offers no help to people waiting for services and reduces support for those citizens with severe disabilities whom the Governor has promised to protect,” said Gene Bianco, President of the Pennsylvania Association of Rehabilitation Facilities. “This budget is focused on cutting funding and services, and those cuts are harmful to people with disabilities.”

Sheila Stasko, Chairperson of the PA Waiting List Campaign, called cuts to services for people with intellectual disabilities “unconscionable.” Shirley Walker, President and CEO of PAR, Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disabilities, called the state’s proposal “wrong and not sustainable.”

Philadelphia City Health Commissioner Donald Schwarz, in a press conference, said: “This budget takes apart many of the supports that have been in place for a very long time for people who are particularly vulnerable in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with impacts that are dramatic for the city of Philadelphia.” 

Noting that programs damaged most by Gov. Corbett’s budget are services for the mentally ill, young adults moving from, drug and alcohol treatment, services for delinquent children, services for those with HIV/AIDS, food stamp benefits, after school programs, and homeless support for those hoping to move on from life in a shelter, Scwarz added ominously: “There are folks with HIV who will die on the streets in Philadelphia.”

Philadelphia Weekly had perhaps the best assessment. I can't quote them directly here, because this is a family blog. But you can see their irretrievably vulgar (but very accurate) take here.

Instead of cutting crucial services, laying off employees and incurring a greater financial burden in the long run, let's invest in these services. Let's provide children, working families and people with disabilities the support they need – and save the jobs of the people who support them.

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