The budget proposal released by Governor Dave Heineman last week highlights the difficult situation that the state is in regarding a significant budget shortfall. Voices for Children Executive Director Carolyn Rooker says they understand that tough decisions will have to be made in the weeks and months ahead but they urge children and families are considered first.
“We really feel the Governor has done a fabulous job of having a full vision for the future of our state but we are concerned that Nebraska children shouldn’t have to choose between being healthy and being educated. All Nebraska children should have their basic needs met.”
Rooker says the budget proposal raises several concerns.
“The number one thing that jumps out is the reductions in behavioral health services that have been implemented. For example the Family Navigator and the Children’s helpline that has just started being an effective part of the state behavioral health system.”
Rooker says there is also concern about the redistribution of over four-million dollars in funding for child welfare.
“The elimination of four-million dollars in state and federal funding for child welfare. We understand there have been cost savings however we are not really sure where the savings are coming from and where it is being redirected.”
Rooker says they are also concerned about cuts to provider rates for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program that could decrease access for health care, especially in rural areas. Rooker says they are also concerned about increases in Medicaid co-pays at a time when many families are struggling.
Rooker adds that while the state has difficult choices to make, these choices shouldn’t come at the expense of children and families.
“When you think about Nebraska children and families, we need to create a foundation that can establish for them long term success and ultimately the prosperity of our state so these cuts can not come at the expense of Nebraska’s children and working families.”
Rooker says Voices for Children will keep a close eye on the budget process and will be looking at all the bills that have been introduced this legislative session to see which ones best fit the needs of children and families.