Montana Viewpoint

July 22, 2002

Today, more than ever, I am thankful to be in good health, of sound mind, and able to support myself. And why today? I have just finished reading an analysis of the Governor’s budget cuts and wonder what kind of moral viewpoint could approve of depriving the sick, the poor, and the elderly some basic comfort and medical care.

The particular document I am referring to is the Legislative Fiscal Division’s analysis of the program cuts proposed by the Governor in order to balance the budget. There are some $23 million of cuts in this particular document, 41% of which are in the area of public health. There are another $45 million yet to come when the Legislature meets in Special Session August 5th.

Here’s a few to think about; they went into effect on July 1st:

Eliminating vision care for 71 people who will go blind without medical help. Eliminating health insurance for 336 children. Reducing Medicaid long term care for elderly and disabled poor. Reducing care for the mentally disabled who have been committed to state hospitals. Reducing “meals on wheels,” which provides meals to housebound elderly. Reducing foster care of children. Curtailing funding for the School for the Deaf and Blind.

And, believe me, I’ve thought about it. There are many items in the governor’s proposal that I don’t have much problem with. They should probably be reduced or eliminated even in flush times. But shorting poor kids a healthy childhood; giving wards of society “many of whom cannot walk or talk” less care than the little care they are already getting; and making the end of life harder for poor elderly folks is not something that my moral code allows me to agree with. The largest expenditures in any state’s budget are education, corrections, and health care for the poor. Because they are so large, when serious budget reductions need to occur, these three take the hits.

If these are our areas of top spending, what does that say of us as a society? That we want kids to have a good start in life by giving them an education; that we want to keep our citizens safe from harm; and that we feel a serious obligation to help those who, through no fault of their own, are frail, incompetent, or poor. What does it say of our society when we accept the cuts recommended by the Governor in these areas? I think you are all able to answer that question without my help.

Over the last ten years, we have given the fortunate tax breaks, so that they would have more; we have given giant corporations huge tax breaks so that they would have even more money to hoodwink us with, and we have taken aid from the most vulnerable in our society in order to do it.

It’s time to stop.

Jim Elliott
Phone: 406-444-1556
Mail: State Senate Helena, MT 59620