Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Shrinking Human Services Budget

You could call it “economic cleansing” — trying to liquidate poor people by simply not funding services for them. Then, just sit back and let them either go away or die off.

The Republicans hated—and still hate—FDR for the New Deal. The idea of providing anything for the poor causes nausea in the collective stomach of the GOP. We’ve watched the funding drop and drop, never big enough short-falls to cause outrage, but rather a sort of desensitization process has gone on. A little less this year, a little less the next year.... Yeah, I like to hammer the Republicans on this, but Clinton, an ostensible Democrat, chopped a way at the remains of the New Deal as well.

State agency faces $172 million budget gap
12/28/2005, 12:10 a.m. PT
The Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The director of the Oregon Department of Human Services says the agency faces a $172 million shortfall in its current 2005-2007 budget.

In a letter to Gov. Ted Kulongoski, agency director Bruce Goldberg wrote that the department "faces serious financial challenges."

Goldberg warned earlier this month that the budget set by the Legislature was not keeping pace with increasing Medicaid caseloads and a reduction in federal matching dollars. In his letter to Kulongoski, Goldberg said Medicaid caseload changes account for almost $120 million of the shortfall.

The Department of Human Services offers help to 1 million Oregon residents through its welfare and health programs. Its budget for the next two years is $9.8 billion, with state taxes accounting for roughly $2.5 billion.

The $172 million gap could force cuts in health care and other services for the poor. It might also force lawmakers into a special session.

"You could fix this by making cuts somewhere but I think it's a fool's errand," said Alan Bates, D-Ashland, one of several lawmakers who said Tuesday that they favored a special session.

"The patients just show up in another program or in an emergency room to be taken care of."

But House Speaker Karen Minnis, R-Wood Village, said it's too early to for talk of special session.

"I'm not convinced that we know the whole scope of the problems with this particular agency," she said.

The shortfall is more than three times as large as the $55 million gap in the 2003-2005 budget, which resulted from accounting errors.

Goldberg, who has only headed the agency since November, said earlier this month that factors outside the agency's control are behind the latest deficit, such as increased demand for services through the Oregon Health Plan, which provides health care for lower-income people.

Though more jobs are being created in Oregon, Goldberg noted that many of them don't come with medical benefits. Moreover, many existing employers are scaling back on benefits because of rising costs.


Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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