Jul 8, 2009

All-GOP Board of Commissioners pushing back against Senate Republican unnecessary budget cuts

HOWELL – The rest of the state is finally catching on to the deep, draconian and unnecessary budget cuts Senate Republicans made just before they broke for the two-week summer vacation.

The Senate passed House Bill 4436 that sets the Department of Community Health (DCH) budget on June 24 with only Republican votes. The cuts included some $500 million in general fund cuts as well as $18 million in cuts from the Healthy Michigan Fund. This budget also includes an eight percent cut to Medicaid providers, as well as cuts to community mental health and school health programs. All of the programs save tax money in the long run.

Senate Democrats offered numerous amendments to restore much of the funding that was in the House version, but they all failed along party lines.

Apparently, the all-Republican Livingston County Board of Commissioners is pushing back, and on Monday they passed a resolution with a 7-2 vote opposing the Senate passed version of HB 4436. The bill would consolidate the state's 46 community mental health boards into 18, and the resolution calls that action illegal under the Michigan Mental Health Code.

Mac Miller, Executive Director of Community Mental Health Services of Livingston County, told the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus for a story published Wednesday that if the Senate version passes, his department will have to "kick people out" who are currently receiving services.

Miller told the newspaper that it would mean that the fastest growing county in the state would have to merge with another county, likely Washtenaw, and they “would control how Livingston County money is spent or distributed. The department provides emergency services, assessment, health and medication services, client services management, individual and group therapy and several other services to the community. It serves 1,500-2,000 clients annually.”

Livingston County’s state Congressional delegation were at Monday’s Board of Commissioners meeting to defend their votes. Sen. Valde Garcia, R-Howell, who voted for the Senate version, tried to defend the cuts by saying cuts had to be made somewhere, ignoring the fact that the House version accomplished that. He also claimed “the state is focused on creating more "efficient" government.”

Veterans Commissioner Jack LaBelle dismissed that claim, saying bigger is not always better.

Apparently, Senate Republicans are gearing up for the 2010 campaign, and the decision to deny help to thousands of mentally ill residents was simply so Senate Republicans can claim they cut spending when they are on the campaign trail.

Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, who voted against the House version, confirmed that, telling the newspaper, it was "good old-fashioned gamesmanship," then criticized the House for passing a bill that added "eight or nine" new programs that will be almost exclusively funded on stimulus money, which will dry up next year. However, he ignores the fact that the House version actually deleted 14 programs.

This is not, however, the final vote on the DCH budget. Because the House and Senate have not agreed on the same funding provisions this bill will be referred to a conference committee where the differences between the House- and Senate-passed versions will be resolved.

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