August 8, 2016
Last week, ND Democrats put forth a proposal to address the states’ budget shortfalls while while minimizing additional cuts to people in need. After all, state supported agencies that care for our most vulnerable created their budgets based on what was promised in the 2015 legislative session. Leadership in the majority party criticized the Dems for not jumping on board with every element of their proposal.
Is legislation not supposed to be better when it comes from a vigorous discussion of all sides of an issue? Isn’t that why the special session was called to order?
The truth is that many new services were desperately needed two years ago when policies were crafted – and remain desperately needed today! Never mind that for some, those services are the difference between being able to work – or having to stay home; between care for loved ones – or no care. And, in some cases – life and death are on the line. We promised these services – and then ripped them away.
A common theme on the House floor was that these aren’t cuts as much as reductions to new services not yet implemented – so, no harm, no foul. Come January we’ll simply reinstate (or not). In the world of Human Services it just isn’t that simple. Many of the systems for behavioral health, autism, brain injury, long term care, (and others) area tenuous at best. The additional services, funding and infrastructure is needed for stability and assurances of future development. Some services are simply gone now, potentially for good.
Those who opposed the sanctioned budget bill were accused of pandering and politicizing the budget shortfall. When amendments were carefully crafted to help address not only the short fall, but to leverage federal dollars, those amendments were summarily dismissed. In the end we gave up federal to state match dollars totaling over 56 million, amplifying the negative impacts to particular services.
How can the investment of a 2 to 1 federal match be labeled irresponsible? Why were amendments summarily rejected that would protect core services while maintaining the balanced budget required by our Constitution?
If the new budget was so good, why the need to craft it without input from all legislators? It was stated on the House floor that there simply wasn’t enough time for careful budget consideration. If it’s important, take the time. Publicly debate the issues of disagreement so the people of ND can hear all sides of the issue.
Our job is to work for all the people of ND. I think we could have done better.
Rep. Gail Mooney, ND District 20