Topeka A Lawrence legislator says lawmakers are being asked to make massive cuts in the state's welfare budget.
It's "unfair and unconscionable" that state lawmakers are being asked to make further cuts in state programs that will affect children, the poor and the elderly, says a Lawrence legislator.
Rep. Forrest Swall, D-Lawrence, said Monday that he plans to argue against proposed cuts of $14 million that the House Appropriations Committee is expected to make in the state's welfare budget today.
Swall, a Kansas University assistant professor of social welfare, says Rep. Rochelle Chronister, R-Neodesha, who chairs the appropriations committee, has told the subcommittee dealing with the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services budget to carve $14 million to $15 million out of that budget.
What's the alternative?
"Raise taxes," Swall said. "Increase the revenues. What we're saying is, it's more important not to raise taxes than it is to take care of our kids."
The subcommittee is to present a budget to the full committee this week that would cut money from programs that provide cash assistance, medical care and the Kanwork budget, which is designed to help ease the transition from welfare to work, Swall said.
Rep. Henry Helgerson, D-Wichita, a member of the subcommittee, said those who will be hit hardest by the cuts are the 2,387 disabled people and adults who are currently receiving general assistance. They will face a $6.7 million cut in hospital services.
"We went through a very painful and difficult process with SRS," Helgerson said.
Swall said the program would cut off funds to people who already are on their way to getting a good job and off the welfare system.
"It would affect children, it would affect the elderly, it would affect those on Medicaid, the parents of children who are in the Kanwork program," he said.
Swall said it looks to him as if the House leadership has decided to carry out $14 million in cuts in the welfare budget, rather than look elsewhere for the money.
"There is some question as to whether the Senate would go along with that," Swall said.
Swall said cuts to the SRS budget were unfair, considering the other programs where money could be found.
"We protect our highways," he said. "We have highway programs that we won't touch for love nor money. But we cut it out on people for whom (welfare) services are absolutely critical to their lives."
Swall said despite the need for more revenue, there has been no word from legislative leaders that revenue should be raised to keep critical programs funded.
"There's virtually no one speaking up to protect the children's initiatives that were started, which was called the Blueprint for Children," he said. "On the other hand, we've got stuff coming through the mill that is making it harder and tougher on kids coming through the juvenile justice system. These are proposals that are not supported by any factual data and will in all likelihood do more damage."