This week, the Missouri Senate Budget Committee proposed significant cuts to the Departments of Mental Health, Social Services and Health and Senior Services that in total will exceed $130 million in the FY 2016 budget. This action comes at a time when Missouri’s overall financial situation is getting stronger, particularly in light of the fact that tax collections for the year indicate that the State will have $80 million more in revenues than were available for last year’s budget.
These across-the-board cuts represent an unwarranted meat-axe approach to the budgeting process that will significantly damage core programs currently provided by the State to some of its most vulnerable citizens.
As the state’s premier advocate and resource for older Missourians, we strongly oppose cuts that will curtail the home-delivered meals program for seniors; investigations regarding elder abuse and financial exploitation; inspections of hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities serving the health needs of seniors; cutbacks in funding for mental health services and facilities; and cuts in programs that serve the needs of men and women who have the primary responsibility for the nutrition, health and safety of children.
We applaud Governor Jay Nixon’s call today for the restoration of these funds and for the passage of a budget that meets the needs of many groups of people who cannot adequately provide for themselves.
In 1822 the state legislature of Missouri officially adopted the Great Seal of the State of Missouri, and emblazoned on that seal is the Latin phrase “Salus populi suprema lex esto” – “Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law”. For us, that phrase is more than a motto. It is the guiding principle that should be followed as we make laws and budgeting decisions that will affect the underpinnings of health, nutrition, safety and dignity for Missouri’s citizens, regardless of their age, infirmity or economic status.
The Missouri Senate’s current budget proposal does not conform with this approach to public policy; pits one group against the other in the budgeting process; is based more on politics than sound public policy; and ignores the fact that the elimination of these state funds will have a significant negative impact on our ability to attract federal matching funds, thus intensifying the impact of these cuts.
Like the Governor, we are asking for a full restoration of the funds cut from these three departments and ask for consideration of budget increases in the areas of senior nutrition and health programs.
Catherine Edwards, executive director of the Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging