Topeka Within a few weeks, hundreds of needy Kansans are going to find themselves on waiting lists for services, state welfare secretary Janet Schalansky said Wednesday.
"I expect the waiting list for the developmentally disabled and for the physically disabled to triple in the next year," Schalansky said.
The Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, she said, simply doesn't have enough money to pay for all the services people need.
Other spending cuts will affect the availability of prescription drugs and payments to pharmacies and nursing homes for the mentally ill.
"We have been asked to implement a budget that doesn't meet the total needs of needy and vulnerable Kansans," Schalansky said, minutes after addressing more than 300 social workers, program directors and advocates who gathered for a briefing on the department's fiscal 2003 budget, which begins July 1, 2002.
Schalansky also warned the SRS employees of cuts in department administrative costs, including out-of-state travel and furniture purchases.
Earlier this month, lawmakers passed a $250 million tax passage, leaving Gov. Bill Graves and his Cabinet to find the $50 million needed to break even with current-year spending.
Schalansky told the group that if state revenues continued to come in below estimates as most predict further cuts would be necessary, perhaps as early as this summer. And unless the state's economy stages a major comeback, she said the FY 2004 budget is sure to be even more difficult.
Pressed to find a silver lining in the dark-cloud budget, Schalansky reminded the groups that few of the cuts are expected to affect needy children. In fact, she said, the budget includes a slight boost for HealthWave, the state's health insurance for children in low-income families.
Also, she said, the state's foster care and adoption programs were spared, and lawmakers restored much of an earlier cut in family preservation services.
"What's there to say?" asked Paul Johnson, director of the church-sponsored Public Assistance Coalition of Kansas. "What we're dealing with here now could have been much worse."