I skimmed through the list of legislative cut “options” and it seems as though many of the ideas would hit the poor, elderly and disabled pretty hard.
It also would seem to roll back much of the progress — or at least money being spent — to fix Nebraska’s broken system for helping developmentally disabled people. The lawmakers’ report admits some of the ideas would send more disabled and elderly people from their homes back into institutions — the exact opposite direction the feds have been pushing them.
Among the possible state budget cuts:
• Closure of the Hastings Regional Center.
• Elimination of Medicaid coverage for hearing aids for adults. Savings: About half a million dollars.
• Elimination of meals under the Aged and Disabled Home and Community- Based Services for adults.
• Elimination of state aid to the Disabled Persons & Family Support Program, which helps families keep family members in their homes. The report says this could result in “a significant number of these individuals” going into institutions for care — exactly the opposite direction the feds have been pushing Nebraska. Savings: $910,000.
• Elimination of state aid for Title 20 Aged and Disabled Services, which help elderly and disabled people stay in their homes. This would eliminate chore services, home-delivered meals, non-medical transportation, congregate meals, and adult day care for approximately 9,600 recipients. Some individuals would go into nursing homes if they lost these services, the report says.
• Reduce the unallocated Developmental Disabilities Waiting List appropriation by $2.5 million. Due to the influx of new individuals in services, Service Coordination is already at maximum capacity.
• Require counties to pay for county court employees — repealing a 1972 law and saving the state an estimated $17 million, but shifting the costs to county taxpayers.
• Furlough all judicial branch employees for 10 days in 2012-2013.
• Parole more than 1,000 prisoners, to reduce guard staffing in prisons, saving $12 million.
• Eliminate $11 million in aid to counties for the next biennium.
• Eliminate the regulation of limousine service (no I am not making this up) saving $74,000.
There is a very long list of possible state budget cuts floating around the state this week, and there are many things on that list that would affect a lot of people.
This is just one potential cut, but I find it interesting: A committee chaired by Sen. Bill Avery of Lincoln recommends changing the law that allows the state auditor to audit political subdivisions (cities, counties, etc.) “at his discretion.” Currently, State Auditor Mike Foley can audit any entity that receives general fund dollars from the state, and charge that entity with the cost of the audit.
“Therefore, general fund dollars are being used to pay for these audits,” the report says. Although that does not seem to be a given — a city could use its own general funds, not state general funds.
The committee suggests allowing Foley to audit these entities only if they “request” one (yes, many cities LOVE to be audited and are just begging the auditor to come in and take a look at the books — especially if they’re up to something nefarious) or if 10 percent of the people in the city sign a petition that requests the audit (like that would ever happen).
In other words, this committee would like Foley to stay in his office as much as possible. Quit pestering those poly-subs with his audits.
Foley said the legislative report is “loaded with lots of ideas that have not been fully thought out.”
“I don’t know where this one came from but I can’t get too worked up about it as I don’t think it will go anywhere,” he said. “The auditing of political subdivisions does not involve the use of state tax dollars and that’s what the senators will be looking to find come January.”
Apparently, somebody’s (Avery? A friend of one Chris Beutler) not to happy with the audits Foley has had the audacity to conduct. A big audit on Lincoln’s Antelope Valley Project comes to mind. Beutler was not happy about that one — nor was he happy when Foley announced his intention to audit Lincoln’s $340 million arena project. Beutler complained that the city already does an annual — if impotent — audit of city accounts and could handle the audit itself.
There’s a bit of a battle brewing between these two, and I suspect this cut might have something to do with it.
When I lived in North Dakota, the state auditor was scarcely seen nor heard — in fact, there was a story once about how she seemed to be spending more time at a side business than in the capitol. She needed to be audited, apparently.
It was a different story when I moved to Nebraska: the state auditor seemed to be everywhere at once, auditing this, auditing that, and finding corruption far more than I ever would have expected in squeaky-clean Nebraska.
And often, he’s auditing departments run by Republicans — which probably cuts into the number of colleagues sending him Christmas cards.
Personally, I like knowing somebody’s checking to see that tax dollars are being spent properly. This particular committee, apparently, does not. We’ll see if the rest of the lawmakers agree.