California Prepares for Budget Battle

Budget hearings, demonstrations, public outrage from one side or the other; it’s only been four short months, but 2011 is shaping up to be the Year of the State Budget Scare. Look no further than our recent post from Bill Smith, a TASH national board member who was called to testify before the New Hampshire Senate as they consider dramatic cuts to community supports (the bill already passed in the N.H. House). Or see what’s happening in the state of Washington, which for years has been a leader in disability employment, but is now facing $54 million in cuts to employment programs for people with disabilities. It seems every state has a similar story. We’re in a time of great financial crisis. True. But the approach that many state governments have taken is one that not only is morally reprehensible, but fiscally irresponsible.

The latest news to pass our desk comes from Keeping the Lanterman Promise, an organization created to preserve the Lanterman Act, which outlines the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in California and the responsibilities of the state’s 21 regional centers. In a document entitled The Calm Before the Storm, KTLP predicts the “storm” is imminent, and may hit as early as next week. The storm comes in the form of an announcement, as the state’s Department of Developmental Services prepares to reveal how $174 million in the general fund should be cut from community services. And because each dollar in the general fund brings matching federal funds to California, the result of a cut of this magnitude has a $300 million annual impact. Whether or not the cuts are passed into law, KTLP says, depends largely on the response from Californians.

So, Californians, here’s what you can do – public forums are being held May 5 in Los Angeles, May 6 in Sacramento and May 9 in Oakland. Details and schedules are located at www.DDS.ca.gov, just click on the “Public Forums on General Fund Savings Proposals” link.

For more information, view The Calm Before the Storm or visit KTLP on the web. You can also connect with Cal-TASH, the California Chapter of TASH, to learn more about state issues.

And if this issue strikes a chord with you, let us know in the comments section below.

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