A coalition of special interest groups in Nebraska called today for the legislature to restore budget cuts made in wake of the recession before it considers any tax cuts.
The coalition made the plea during a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda a day before Gov. Dave Heineman outlines his budget proposal during the annual State of the State address to the legislature.
The coalition, sponsored by Voices for Children in Nebraska and Nebraska Appleseed, stated budget cuts made to adjust to shrinking revenue in the past threaten to undermine the good life in Nebraska.
Lincoln resident DeEtta Hoffman said her autistic grandson Skyler has regressed in his speaking ability since Medicaid cuts reduced the time he has with his speech therapist.
“Our state seems to have given up on Skyler, but his mother and I continue to love him and give him the best chance we can to have a normal, healthy life,” Hoffman stated.
A volunteer with AARP Nebraska, Robbie Nathan, claimed that state budget cuts have limited access to long-term care for the elderly.
“When a person who needs community, long-term care cannot obtain those services, the option is to move to a nursing facility or assisted-living facility and the process of spending down for Medicaid eligibility begins,” according to Nathan.
Mark Intermill with AARP Nebraska stated the legislature reduced spending on some critical state programs and services after the country slipped into recession.
“As we recover and as revenues recover, those are the things that we need to look at in terms of making that restoration of spending so that we can mitigate some of the damage or the problems that has caused as we made those cuts,” Intermill said.
Specifically, the coalition wants more state spending on K-12 education, healthcare and local communities. The coalition, using numbers that are adjusted for inflation, claims funding for public schools has fallen 17%, funding for Medicaid has dipped 9%, and aid to local communities is down 24.5%.
Nebraska Appleseed’s Jennifer Carter included expanding Medicaid in the mix, arguing that expansion makes financial sense.
“If you’re going to start dealing with the cost-drivers in the health care system, we have to get people access that makes sense, access to primary (health) care,” Carter stated.
AUDIO: Coalition calls for restoring budget cuts during Capitol news conference. [14 min.]