What Does Our State Spending Say About Our Values?
Posted on February 29, 2012 by Megan Burke
Often when we hear talk about the state creating a balanced budget, we hear comments like “we have to balance our personal budgets, so why shouldn’t the state be held to the same standard.” I say, fair enough. It just makes me wonder. What are our state values?
Each of our personal budgets is generally grounded in our values. If one thing is important to me, I may need to sacrifice something else to make my budget balance. However, if I have cut my budget down as low as I think I can, I then need to look at other sources of income. If my current earnings don’t cover my expenses or allow me to meet my goals, I find a second job.
Missouri is in a tough place. We have a budget shortfall of $800 million for FY2013.[i] We have to balance our budget. Our legislators would argue we need to cut funding, as they have made it clear they won’t raise revenue. Based on recommendations from the House Appropriations committee, they would like to cut funding to programs which provide supports to people with disabilities.
- $28 million cut eliminates health care benefit for 2,858 Missourians who are eligible for the Blind Pension. This means loss of health care for a group of people who cannot find affordable health insurance and face high unemployment rates.
- 25% cut from funding for the staff and services necessary to assure timely access to home and community-based services. These cuts will create barriers to accessing services, delays in assessments and plan of care, backlog of calls and unnecessary waits which could put some people at risk of institutionalization.
- 21.6% cut to the Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities which support healthy aging of older adults.
- Cuts in the state Medicaid matching rate that the Department says will have to be managed by rate reductions which will disproportionately fall on physicians, nursing facilities, outpatient hospital services, durable medical equipment, hospice, dental and comprehensive day rehabilitation.
- An across the board 25% in funding which would have helped more people get off the waiting list for home and community-based services waivers.
Yes, Missouri is spending a significant amount of money on essential services such as education, health care, long-term services and supports, etc., but aren’t these programs an investment? Our communities are stronger when Missourians have access to health care. Our communities are stronger when people with disabilities can work, contribute, and live a quality life because they have stable and appropriate support systems in place, like attendant services.
Missouri cannot continue to make cuts to education, health services, and social services programs without harming its citizens. So, what is our guiding value in Missouri? Do we dig in our heels, and not raise revenue knowing this will cause harm to Missourians? Or, do we value the lives of all Missourians and look to ways to increase revenue to fund the programs we value?
Here are some resources related to revenue options:
[i]Missouri Budget Project (January 12, 2012). Missouri FY2013 Budget Shortfall to Reach $800 Million. Retrieved February 29, 2012 from http://www.mobudget.org/files/Budget_Shortfall_Press_Release-1-12-2012.pdf