House Passes Budget Bill; Disability Groups Lose out

By: Jennifer Bocchieri Email
By: Jennifer Bocchieri Email

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

The State Legislature inches closer to solving a multi-million dollar budget deficit. The house passed a bill Thursday with big budget cuts to close the gap. Cuts that will leave several state groups short on money.

The Association of Retarded Citizens, or ARC, provides education and socialization programs for those with mental disabilities. Connie Armstrong's 15-year-old daughter has been part of ARC for years.

"Our children grow up learning you can't and the ARC has shown her that you can," said Armstrong.

But if state budget cutbacks do go through, ARC won't be able to serve as it has. Services for Kansans with developmental disabilities could lose out on $15 million in the coming year and that means longer waiting lists for services just to start.

"Part of the concern is... they're not noticing this is going to affect families and individuals directly," said ARC Executive Director Kevin Fish. "This isn't just a system cut. This is about lives. Families may literally lose all the services their child has."

The house passed a bill with $138 million in spending cuts to help close the budget gap.

A big target was education. Wichita schools could lose out on $17 million and those with USD 259 are still trying to figure out just where to cut.

Those with disabilities also took the brunt of the cuts, much to the dismay of some lawmakers.

"This is a budget I really do feel we balanced somewhat on the backs of those who could least of all afford to give anymore," said Representative Melody McCray-Miller.

Now those affected are just hoping the legislature might reconsider.

"It is not a number on a piece of paper they can cut. There are people that are on this that are not just a number," said Armstrong.

The legislation now goes to the governor for his approval, but the fight might not be over just yet. KAKE has heard there may be a vote to reconsider the budget.

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