Aug 20, 2010
I was on vacation, but the state's budget woes were not. In considering cuts, the state should 1. Protect the most vulnerable, 2. Get people out of institutions, and 3. Keep people out of institutions and other segregated settings.
In case you didn't notice, I took a summer vacation from my blog.
It all started with a long vacation that my wife and I took to celebrate my 60th birthday and the graduation of our youngest kid from college. That's right, the parents got a gift for the son's graduation. And it was great!
When we planned our vacation six months ago, it seemed like late June and early July would be a period of relative calm. But, of course, it wasn't. The state budget went further in the tank and the Governor was preparing to take 9% off the top of all state budgets. On the list of cuts (all painful) were some items that we at DRO felt were particularly harmful and potentially illegal. These were the provision of in-home support services to seniors and people with mental, physical and developmental disabilities.
As I watched from afar via email, DRO staff geared up to challenge these cuts. Legal research and writing proceeded at a fever pitch. We sent out the word to people who were receiving these services to let us know if they wanted to contest cuts. As our litigation director, Kathy Wilde, was putting together this legal package, the legislature's Emergency Board announced that it was considering the restoration of in-home supports by using some reserve funds and re-allocated money in human services budget. Kathy did not slack off. On the day of the E Board's meeting, she was ready to file suit.
But, to everyone's relief, the legislature followed through and restored funding. When I got back to the office a couple of days later, Kathy presented me with the legal brief and pleadings and I thought to myself that I should take vacations more often.
As you probably know, the state budget has not gotten any better since then. This week, the state announced that its present budget is another $200 to $500 million in the hole. For the next budget cycle, the Governor is asking agencies to present him with proposals for 30% cuts. The final budget for July 2011 to June 2013 will be determined by a new governor and a new legislature, but it's clear that there won't be as much money to go around as we are accustomed.
While it's tempting under these circumstances to just plan my next vacation, I know that the next ten months will require all of us in the human services community to pull together to come up with the best approach to resource development and allocation. We at DRO are committed to to working with our partners to assure that the legal rights and safety of Oregonians with disabilities are honored in this process. In our minds, this means that we must first:
1. Assure the safety of our most vulnerable citizens;
2. Prioritize services that allow people with disabilities who live in segregated facilities to return to the communities, and
3. Prioritize community services and supports that allow individuals with disabilities to maintain independent or family living without having to be educated or served in segregated settings.
The next regular legislative session begins in January. It will be no vacation.