“Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I’ll tell you what you value”
Photo by Chris Savage/Eclectablog
Earlier today I wrote about the budget priorities of the Michigan House Democrats. In that piece I wrote, “In stark contrast to our far-right ideological Republicans and our corporatist Governor, the Democrats’ priorities reflect concern and care for middle class families, children and seniors. Their budget is a sincere reflection of their values.”
Little did I know that, just a few hours later, House Republicans would show their values. It’s a very ugly thing to behold.
The House Appropriations subcommittee voted along party lines to cut over 200,000 people from food assistance (FOOD ASSISTANCE!!!), to cut 1,000 jobs in the Department of Human Services, and proposed cuts to services for children and the disabled. As outraged as I’ve been over GOP overreach over the past two years, this move shows that Michigan Republicans are no longer pretending that they care about children, the poor, or any of the other groups that most need our collective help in this state.
Here’s the laundry list:
- Over 1,000 workers, roughly 9% of the total staff, would be cut from the Department of Human Services, the state department that, among other things, handles welfare, food assistance and child abuse investigations
- Cuts $108.6 million from Governor Snyder’s proposed budget
- The three juvenile justice facilities in Escanaba, Grayling and Whitmore Lake would be shut down
- 30 employees who work on permanent placement for children would be fired
- 223 full time in employees in local DHS offices would be let go
- $6.2 million in funds for the Pathways to Potential program would be cut
- $683 million in food assistance funds would be eliminated which make 211,496 people ineligible for the program
- $546,000 in disability assistance — gone
- $15 million in foster care payments — eliminated, reducing the number of foster care cases by 550
These cuts are clearly going to put children at risk. Not only that, they may put the State of Michigan in legal jeopardy:
In 2006, New York-based Children’s Rights filed a class-action federal lawsuit. In it, the child welfare advocacy group accused the state of endangering children by trapping them in a system that failed to meet even basic needs. Ultimately, DHS agreed to a sweeping, multi-million dollar overhaul — still in force today and overseen by a federal court judge — that would, among other things, reduce caseloads in what most agreed had been an overwhelmed system.
The DHS has hired hundreds of new workers to meet that requirement.
Any cuts in child protection staff aren’t just a legal problem, Sara Bartosz, a Children’s Rights attorney, said.
“Reasonable case loads are absolutely essential to ensuring the safety of children in state care,” she said.
Democratic House Representative Rashida Tlaib, the minority vice chairwoman of the DHS budget subcommittee, was blunt:
We cannot afford to have any more children under our care killed or abused or neglected … These staff reductions and cuts to frontline workers will make it extremely difficult for the remaining workers to help these families and protect children from abuse and neglect. The DHS is finally beginning to comply with minimum standards set forth by the Children’s Rights Modified Settlement Agreement, but that work is not done, and cutting staff jeopardizes the progress that’s been made in protecting these vulnerable children. I fear these massive cuts to the protection of our most vulnerable children will come back to haunt us when the state struggles under increased caseloads. Michigan was sued due to these kinds of negligent actions by the Legislature in not ensuring the safety of neglected and abused children.
Democratic Representative Andrew Kandrevas called the proposal “a scorched-earth budget that harms families and the front-line workers who are trying to help them.”
Governor Snyder has, apparently, seen the House proposal. Rather than rejecting it outright as any true state leader who cares about his constituents would, he simply called them “part of the legislative process”. This budget proposal isn’t “part of the legislative process”, it’s a cold, heartless, and intentionally cruel approach a saving money to funnel into the coffers of their corporate benefactors. And it’s being done on the backs of children, the disabled, and the most needy citizens of our state.