Made for you and me?

Written in secret, House budget plan hurts the needy.

By Chris Fitzsimon

[06.04.04] — The budget proposal unveiled June 3 by the N.C. House leadership was written in secret, with no input from the public, advocates or even rank-and-file elected legislators.

That lack of input is clear in the numbers, and in the winners and losers.

The losers are children from families who can’t afford health insurance; people living with AIDS who can’t afford the $12,000 a year for drugs they need to stay alive; working families who can’t find affordable day care so they can go to work; and people with mental illness on waiting lists for treatment from their community program.

The winners are the pharmaceutical industry, health-care providers and, first and foremost, anti-tax and anti-government demagogues inside and outside government whose only priority is slashing government and reducing taxes, or at least making sure none are raised.

Consider the brief discussion about human services at the budget unveiling.

One lawmaker asked why cuts were made in mental health programs and was told reductions had to be made somewhere so the committee leadership could meet a budget target set by the House leadership.

Another legislator who complained about the cuts was told he could restore them if he could identify other human services to cut.

Those are the budget rules. Strict targets require deep cuts. No revenue will be raised, even to help children or the mentally ill, or to keep from hurting them.

And they will be hurt:

* Two thousand children will lose subsidized day care if the House budget passes.

* An immediate freeze for Heath Choice, the state’s health care program for children, will keep families from getting coverage for their children.

* More than 400 people living with HIV/AIDS who make less than $11,000 a year will not get help with lifesaving drugs that cost $12,000 a year.

Before the House budget committee meeting began Thursday, four House pages treated the committee to a rendition of the patriotic anthem “God Bless the USA.”

People affected by the proposed cuts can only wonder, to paraphrase another patriotic classic, “This Land is Your Land,” if this land is “still made for you and me.”

Chris Fitzsimon is director of NC Policy Watch, a program of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, which publishes the Philanthropy Journal.

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