Lives on the line in budget crisis, advocates for disabled say

? For Kansans with disabilities, the fight over the state budget is a life and death struggle.

Since 2009, 65 Kansans have died while on waiting lists for services that provide assistance in-home or in the communities, according to organizations that advocate on behalf of those with disabilities.

“They did not die in dignity,” said Shannon Jones, executive director of the Statewide Independent Living Council of Kansas. “People are languishing. Reducing their quality of life does lead to their death without dignity,” she said.

Because of plummeting tax revenues, Gov. Mark Parkinson in November ordered a 10-percent cut in Medicaid. Other social service spending was approved by legislators in February.

That has left more than 4,300 people on waiting lists for services.

Parkinson, who has proposed a temporary state sales tax increase of 1 cent per dollar, and an increase in the cigarette tax, has vowed to restore the 10 percent Medicaid cut when the wrap up session of the Legislature starts April 28.

But Parkinson has said he doubts there will be enough funding to take care of all those on the waiting list.

“I think the best we can do is restore the Medicaid rates that I previously cut,” he said recently.