Looking to resolve a $768 Million projected shortfall for this fiscal year (ending on June 30, 2015), Governor Charles Baker released his reductions on February 3. He stated: “These adjustments were considered carefully, understanding that the decisions we make today are crucial to implementing responsible fiscal planning for the future. Thankfully, our response to the spending problem we inherited protects local aid, taxpayers and critical services for people without drawing from the rainy day fund. We recognize that some proposals represent one-time fixes and that further structural changes will be needed to correct the spending imbalance for next year and beyond.”
Most disability services were protected on this round of cuts. We are concerned about some pending changes in MassHealth for the PCA (personal care attendant) and AFC (adult family care/group family care) programs. The eligibility bar has been raised for both (see pdf) as well as days cut in AFC. Thank you to Governor Baker and his leadership team, particularly EOHHS Secretary Mary Lou Sudders. Reductions that did take place maintained budget totals above FY’14 figures with one exception. After experiencing service reductions in November at DDS (Dept. of Developmental Services), we were fortunate that the Governor chose to protect all supports there. Service cuts in DDS would have had a doubling effect given the time of year and federal reimbursement projected for state dollars spent.
Governor Baker has been quoted several times to the effect that the state has a “spending problem”. The governor also noted that some of the steps his team took are one-time fixes. As advocates for people with disabilities, The Arc took tough stands in the past supporting then Gov. Weld’s reallocation of disability resources and the re-development of community care. Today most of those savings are gone and investments are needed for families who have an urgent need for support. For example, the November 9C cuts reduced Family Support to below the 2009 spending figure. Mirroring this reality are the line items which fund the partnership between education (DESE) and DDS, the autism waiver, and to a lesser extent, Turning 22 services. These are all cost effective programs.
We look forward to working with the administration to address these unmet needs and thank the Governor and his cabinet for their strong support of disability services reflected in the recent decisions.