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Archive for Thursday, April 22, 2004

Advocates of disabled to fight veto

Funding would help with job training

April 22, 2004

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— Advocates for the disabled said Wednesday they would urge legislators to reinstate $500,000 Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed for services that help people with disabilities get jobs.

"This would be a huge missed opportunity for people with disabilities in Kansas to move into employment," said Bob Mikesic, advocacy coordinator and Americans with Disabilities Act specialist with Independence Inc. in Lawrence.

The Legislature returns for its wrap-up session next week, but budget committees have started meeting to prepare the session's final budget bill.

During the first part of the session, lawmakers approved spending $500,000 to attract $2 million in federal funds for vocational rehabilitation for low-income Kansans with disabilities. The authorization was for the state fiscal year that starts July 1.

The rehabilitation program pays for training, education and specialized equipment to help the disabled find jobs. The availability of new federal dollars for the program was a rare occurrence, advocates said.

Sebelius signed the budget bill but applied a line-item veto to the $500,000 expenditure, saying the Legislature didn't identify where the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services was to come up with the funds.

Sebelius said the program was "certainly worthwhile, but without new funding, the state match would need to be drawn from other important programs in SRS."

Shannon Jones, executive director of the Statewide Independent Living Council of Kansas, said that without the grant, a waiting list for services would start Oct. 1.

"We need to put people to work, not put them on a waiting list when they desire to work," Jones said.

Mikesic said the program more than paid for itself because it helped Kansans with disabilities gain employment, thus reducing their use of entitlement funds and increasing the tax base.

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