The close vote on an amendment aimed at making a bill restoring funding to state welfare programs more palatable to Gov. Mike Hayden is a sign of things to come, said Sen. Jim Allen, R-Ottawa.
Allen and Sen. Wint Winter Jr., R-Lawrence, both members of the Senate's Ways and Means Committee, were two of only four Republican senators to vote against an amendment to a bill that would have cut in half the funding for foster care contained in the bill.
The amendment, introduced by Sen. August "Gus" Bogina, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, failed on a vote of 21-19, and the Senate went on to approve a bill that would provide $13.9 million to keep welfare programs alive until at least April 30 and restore a 10 percent increase for foster care cut by Hayden.
Allen said the Legislature will be forced to evaluate every program and make many difficult choices similar to the one on the amendment. The level funding for welfare programs next year will be among those tough choices, he said.
"DOLLARS are scarce," Allen said, adding that "the real work" of deciding funding levels for programs in the 1991 budget will begin in earnest next week.
"We've got `X' amount of money in a pie, and the pie has got to be divvied up," he said.
Allen said he had little doubt about his vote on Bogina's amendment.
"I'm going to do what I think is right," he said, pointing out that he was responding to problems facing foster care parents and administrators of homes in his district, which includes part of Douglas County.
Both Allen and Winter said that since the 1989 Legislature promised the increased money for foster care, they should not take it away in 1990.
In the 1989 session, the Legislature gave foster care homes and foster parents a 10 percent increase beginning Jan. 1, 1990. That increase was cut by Hayden but the Senate voted to restore it.
"Once you give, you should not . . . cut in the middle of a budget year," Allen said.
The bill will now be acted on by the House.
WINTER pointed out during debate on the bill last year, the foster care increase was carefully evaluated by both the House and Senate.
"We agreed we do have a crisis in the foster care system," he said.
"Now is not the time to be Indian-givers on what we have identified as a compelling problem," he added. "The Senate should take a position on what we think is right."
Winter also emphasized that the money involved to provide the promised increased funding for foster care was miniscule compared to the huge budget problems facing the state this year.
"We do have a problem in the budget," he said. "But it's a question in the tens of millions of dollars."
Winter noted that the difference between a 10 percent increase and a 5 percent increase is only about $700,000.
"Even if it was right to cut foster care, and I don't think it is, we'd only be nibbling" at the problem, he said.
LIKE ALLEN, Winter said the real work involves finding money in the 1991 budget year.
"We've got to sit down and roll up our sleeves and do the job," he said.
Allen said he never had any doubts about his decision to vote to restore the increase for foster care.
"This was such a big issue for people," he said. "We're talking about a life or death thing."
However, Allen said the Legislature may be forced to make cuts in the welfare programs for next year.
"But it will be starting with the beginning of the fiscal year," he said. "They'll know up front what their budget will be."