What was that news about more state cuts????

You might have heard on the news about more state budget cuts affecting children in the offing. Here is the story.

Richard Rosen, the director of the Governor’s Office of Policy and Management submitted a proposal to the Appropriations Committee of the Maine Legislature on Tuesday that would cut millions of dollars from children’s program in Maine.  The report recommended cuts to essential programs that support children such as Head Start, childhood immunizations, Maine’s Public Health Nursing, and significant cuts to public schools.

The proposal from the administration would cut $448,875 from Maine’s Head Start program, which serves  low-income children, 0 – 5 years old.  Head Starts are still reeling from state cuts of $2 million in 2012, followed by cuts of $1.6 million as a result of the federal sequester.  The sequester, alone, has meant that approximately 360 children were unable to attend Head Start, with 22 classrooms closed, and 86 jobs lost.  Although the state legislature provided a much needed restoration of $1.3 million for 2014, that funding was for one year only and will be gone in 2015 unless the legislature acts in the next legislative session to continue to restore funding.

In addition, the report recommends a “consolidation and alignment” of Maine’s Public Health Nursing program and Maine Families Home Visiting program which will result in a cut of  $500,000 to the Public Health Nursing Program.  Educating new parents about how to encourage their baby’s health, learning and development is key to establishing a strong foundation — but it is particularly important for children in households subjected to the stresses of poverty.  The administration has significantly cut Maine Families Home Visiting, in the past few years,  eliminating their state funding in the Fund for a Healthy Maine. These cuts have been justified because of the receipt of the large federal Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) grant. Yet the federal grant was released with the expectation Maine would maintain its state commitment. The federal grant, alone, does not meet the needs of the state in helping to establish healthy foundations for our young families.

The Maine Immunization Program (MIP) is targeted for a cut of $1 million in the Governor’s proposal. The Administration states that funding is sufficient for all needed immunizations without the $1 million. Committee members questioned why the funds were suddenly now not needed, given that those savings were not identified last spring as the budget was being put together.  The MIP is critical to prevention as it works to ensure that all Maine children and adults are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Finally, approximately one third of the cuts in the proposal were focused on education for children in grades K-12.  The administration recommends cuts of $9.6 million to public schools in FY-15, stating that many municipalities had not  passed budgets to take advantage of these funds because the state budget appropriation came too late.  Municipalities may, however, reconsider their school budgets and use these funds.

The report was initiated as part of the state budget that was passed in June of 2013 by the Maine Legislature.  The budget document required that the Governor’s Office of Policy and Management identify potential savings of $33,750,000 relating to the structures and functions of state government.  Of the $33 million, approximately one third of the of the savings will be cut through administrative savings and by financial order from the FY14 General Fund budget.  The remaining $22,500,000 in savings would have to be part of a 2015 supplemental budget. Thus, we can expect most of these cuts to be part of the legislative debate over a supplemental budget when the Legislature convenes in January.

The full report can be found at:

http://www.maine.gov/legis/ofpr/appropriations_committee/materials/PartFReport.pdf

The Appendix for the report can be found at:

http://www.maine.gov/legis/ofpr/appropriations_committee/materials/PartFReport-Appendicies.pdf

 


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