Today we take testimony from the public regarding Health and Welfare cuts. Our governor, the voters and the majority of the legislature have clearly indicated that raising revenue, taxes, is not an option. So we must reduce what we spend. Heath and Welfare is the target.
Idaho is unique in the Western States in that we support developmentally disabled adults extensively in the community. Ten years ago these programs were funded as a cost-cutting measure. If we could keep these clients out of institutions, in the community, we could save the taxpayer money.
These very programs are on the chopping block. When H&W presented this to our committee I asked them, if we cut this much, how many folks will end up in institutions? It’s just a matter of statistics, but they couldn’t say. We don’t really know how sharp are these tools we use.
There are many programs for qualifying individuals. H&W pays for the treatment. Last week Butch Otter was in Cul de Sac for a town meeting. A woman got up to complain about the cuts to developmentally disabled programs. She was caring for her son in her home. He had meningitis as a child and was disabled. The proposed cuts would reduce her financial support from $110,000 a year to $86,000. She didn’t think this was fair.
So we as a state and as a nation are at this place of conflict. How much can we ask our fellow taxpayers to give to care for those less able to care for themselves. And how often does such a policy create a demand? Can we as a nation have this discussion and strike a healthy balance?
I have received three dozen or more emails, phone calls, and letters about these proposed cuts. I always try to understand the motivation of the person sending the message. It’s not always clear. I will sit in the auditorium for the public testimony Friday. I will listen carefully.