Budget Cuts Attack the "Weakest Link"

By: Auburn Hutton Email
By: Auburn Hutton Email

The housing market crisis...and a slowing economy in general...have severely taxed our state budget. In response...Governor Gibbons has asked the Department of Health & Human Services to prepare for a five percent cut in funding... equaling nearly $100 million dollars.

Human Services professionals, in turn, held a rally Monday, to speak out against the cuts. Rally organizers say the initial cut would be just over $100 million dollars, plus an estimated loss of another $100 million in matching federal funds.

While the governor hasn't made any final decisions as to where he'll be cutting corners. Human Services professionals say he should cut somewhere else.

The group of community leaders works with the homeless, the elderly, the addicted, and the disabled...all target groups that could bear the brunt of Gibbons' proposed budget cut.

The governor has already promised not to take funds from certain groups...but in a time of shrinking sales tax revenue, the money has to come from somewhere.

"We're a no-frills kind of state. We don't give out a lot of free things. I think we have to look at how you manage a state that's growing so fast, yet our revenues are not," said Jan Gilbert with Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

The group is asking Gibbons to exempt Health and Human Services from any proposed budget cuts, and to take money from projects, not people. Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie voiced her frustration with the governor's priorities.

"We can delay capital construction, some state buildings, university buildings, perhaps some roads. They're not good choices, but there are no good choices," said Leslie.

If the governor chooses to cut Health and Human Services, programs for disabled people, like Paul Gowins could suffer...things like attendant care and food services.

"It's like a snowball and we always get the first round. We have the least voice in the pile so we are pretty easy to pick on," said Gowins.

Human Services advocates say the budget cut could be devastating...and the people with the least, would suffer the most.

"We fund what we care about and I think all of us care about people and building the kind of community and state that we're proud of," said Shaun Griffin, Executive Director of Community Chest.

"I feel frustration that we fought through the entire legislative session to get new services for people. That's going to be wiped out. To say I am frustrated is an understatement," added Assemblywoman Leslie.

Rally organizers say Gibbons should also look at dipping into the state's rainy day fund to make up for the budget shortfall.

Gibbons' press secretary is looking into that as one option...but the final budget cut proposals won't be out until late December or even January.

So far, the governor said he won't cut funds that go to public safety, juvenile justice, child welfare or k-12 funding, but at this point, every other area that falls under the budget is at risk to be cut.


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