Waking Up From the Stimulus Pipe DreamThe Tennessean has begun publishing the stories of those who could be impacted by State budget cuts as our budget deficit begins to drag us deeper and deeper into a collective financial hole:
Two months after declaring that the federal stimulus plan had saved the state from taking drastic measures to balance the budget, state officials now say hiring freezes, layoffs and deep cuts may be needed after all to deal with a sharp decline in tax receipts.
The shortfall will force the state to draw deep from the financial reserves that it built up earlier in this decade, officials say. But it also will mean speeding up cuts — possibly even to programs such as mental health, mental disability and children's services — that officials had hoped to phase in gradually over the next few years.
The cuts could mean sharp reductions to services like the state-paid personal assistants who help [Diane] Lara take care of her 17-year-old daughter, Megan, and her 10-year-old son, Nickolas.
First of all, let me clarify something for certain liberal ignoramuses whose first line of argument is "you just don't understand the impact of these cuts." I understand far more than most people who will make that argument because I have lived my entire life with cerebral palsy (I won't say that I "suffer" from it because I have had it essentially from birth and I haven't known a life without it, unlike some with disabilities that they haven't always had. I am not in a state of suffering.) and I do know how cuts in services can impact people with disabilities and those who care for them. I have a level of firsthand knowledge that most of our legislators simply wouldn't understand, so the whole "you don't understand" argument is moot. Trust me, I get it in a very big way.
I submit that it is our Governor, and even previous General Assemblies who have done the greatest disservice to people like Ms. Lara and her autistic children. Why? They have simply refused to confront the possibility of a budget trainwreck which was predicted in this very space almost two years ago. Those in the Legislature, as well as those of us who actively cover and follow Tennessee politics, could all see this coming (Ms. Lara and those like her didn't have the time to see it coming). When people warned of it they were brushed aside, while the Governor implimented new taxes which he knew were not going to enhance revenues.
Then Governor Bredesen told us all that the federal "stimulus" was going to be the panacea which solved all of our budget problems. Why he wouldn't even have to lay anyone off! So the Governor delayed presenting the budget this year, and continues to delay it, presumably so that he can exact what he wants out of a tired General Assembly. Now we learn that the stimulus will save us from precisely-nothing, just as Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey said a few weeks ago and was castigated for in the press.
If the Governor had been willing to make the cuts necessary two years ago, or even last year, to keep our State budget from nearly collapsing, many of the more severe cuts could have been phased in over time, and some programs-like those which help Ms. Lara's family, may not have needed cutting because the fat was trimmed appropriately from other agencies and the State was able to prioritize. In reality, everyone played the game of "don't cut me off, my piece of the pie is more important than their piece. Cut them but not me."
Instead, the Governor chose to believe the twin fairy tales that increasing consumption sin tax was going to somehow increase revenue, and then this year that our fairy Barack-mother was going to save us all. Now the executive branch is waking up from that pipe dream.
Meanwhile, families who truly do need help, like Diane Lara's, are going to be the ones to suffer because Prince Phillip didn't plan ahead.