The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this morning (subscription required) about significant cuts in payments to foster parents throughout the state. The cuts will affect therapeutic foster homes for children with behavior and emotional problems. Right now, foster parents receive between $410 and $500 per month to care for these children (there are about 285 children in therapeutic foster care, according to the D-G report). Those payments will be cut in half, to $205-$250. It’s worth noting that these foster families receive an additional $74 per day which will not be affected. That comes out to over $27,000 per year. A spokesman for Gov. Beebe said the cuts, which will make up part of the $1.59 million eliminated from the Children and Family Services division of the Department of Human Services budget, came as a result of $35 million in tax cuts passed by the legislature.
Now comes an email from Rep. Donna Hutchinson, who had some strong words for the governor. Hutchinson said Beebe was playing the “scrooge game” and that she would hold up the budget for DHS in the upcoming fiscal session if Beebe does not restore funds to foster families. Hutchinson said cuts could have been made to other DHS programs, like “Gambling, alcohol & drug use, and the most wasteful of all programs—those that help Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual feel better about themselves.” Hutchinson voted for all seven tax cut bills passed in the session and co-sponsored two. This is not the first time Hutchinson has said she would hold up the DHS budget on this issue. From her statement:
Democrats may give speeches about caring for the poor and down trodden, but Governor Beebe doesn’t mind cutting funds if it helps his cause which is “See, I told you we shouldn’t have passed so many tax cuts.” Beebe is a #1 Scrooge. Foster care children are wards of the state; they have no place to go for funds. They should be the very last program to cut—but in a Beebe administration, foster children are the first.
UPDATE: Gov. Mike Beebe’s response:
“Rep. Hutchinson’s comments are the worst kind of demagoguery and represent one of the most troubling issues we face in politics today: There are too many politicians at all levels of government who campaign for and vote for tax cuts, who then want to run and hide, or blame someone else, when the inevitable spending cuts follow.”
UPDATE II: In a polite way, the Department of Human Services explains that, well, the Hon. Rep. Hutchinson is misinformed about some of her representations. From Amy Webb, communications director:
Just wanted to clarify some issues mentioned by Rep. Hutchinson.
First, DHS does not intend to cut substance abuse treatment. In fact, we are expanding those services to include treatment for pregnant woman and adolescents by using Medicaid funding. It is our hope that by addressing these issues with this group, we will help prevent families from breaking up and prevent more children from coming into the foster care system.
As for the gambling program, that is one funded by lottery dollars and required by law.
Finally, we cannot cut a DHS program that helps Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people feel better about themselves because no such program exists.
Read Hutchinson’s entire statement on the jump.