Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Is it a budget yet?

Afraid to look.

*peeks out from under the keyboard*

Nope, not yet, but close. The hold-up now appears to be the privitazation of foster care and other areas that deal with children's lives.

A few snags remained, most notably a dispute between Senate Republicans and Gov. Jennifer Granholm on privatizing foster care, adoption and juvenile justice services.

Privatization advocates say state money could be saved by contracting for some services.

Sen. Bill Hardiman, R-Kentwood, who chairs the conference committee on the human services budget, said the Senate and House are close on the issue, but the governor has not signed off on moving services from the state to private hands. House Appropriations Chairman George Cushingberry, D-Detroit, said Granholm doesn't want to cut unionized state jobs.

First of all- George, you really aren't helping things here by running to the press with this stuff. Equating veto overrides with threats and "terrorism" is pretty inflammatory, even for you. Love that feistiness, but seriously, watch the rhetoric. And to boil this down to saving union jobs neglects the concern that it hasn't been proven that privatization saves anyone money- matter of fact, you don't have to look very far to find an example of where it cost more money and children were hurt.

One of the first stories that comes up on a Google search is this bit of information from Florida dated June 2006.

TALLAHASSEE - The cost of privatizing the state's foster care system has soared in recent years and a higher percentage of children are being repeatedly abused, according to a state audit released Monday.

details over the jump...
Florida did a before and after study on privatizing their system- and look what happened.

During that time, the per child cost to taxpayers has gone up an average of 10.59 percent a year - or almost 70 percent over the six years when adjusted for inflation.

But case managers were paid less. Certified counselors started at $31,089, while their noncertified counterparts began at $29,679, less than what their state counterparts are paid.

Costs went up, pay went down, oversight was spotty, and the instances of abuse went from fewer than one in twelve to one in nine. To top it off, the Florida Legislature had to come up with an additional $20 million to fix problems.

So, there is a little more that goes into it than just "saving union jobs". 

That being said, the hope is a compromise that makes sense can be reached here- and you better have some oversight on what happens next. The lives and well-being of children are in your hands, lawmakers. 

Other budget fun- they are spending money they don't technically have. How this is legal is beyond me. From last night's MIRS-

Lacking the money to pay for the state's environmental and natural resources departments, the Legislature today moved on a pair of spending plans that assume lawmakers will approve by Jan. 15 the $26 million in fee increases needed to keep both departments from making deep cuts in their services.

The House passed the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) budget, HB 4354, this evening on a 63-46 vote. The House passed the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) budget, HB 4358, with difficulty this evening on a 56-53 vote.

Currently, the political will doesn't exist to pass a new $5 add-on to state's fishing and hunting licenses or $18 million in environmental regulation fees typically paid by the business community.

The political will is going to magically appear later? OK. Without that funding, state parks will close, people will be laid off, business will be slowed in the time it takes to get permits. We hurt the economy when we hurt the environment, and quite frankly a small add-on to hunting and fishing licenses still keeps us in line with fees in neighboring states. Not really that big of a deal. Just do it.

Dillon told the News that he thinks this will all be done today. Sure hope so. The people of this state have got to be really tired of the constant threat of shutdown by now. I know I am.

This is your job. Find the courage and get it done. Try not to hurt anyone in the process.

And let's move on already.