PHOENIX – Robert Shin has a job with a Tucson manufacturing company thanks to a training and placement organization for people with developmental disabilities. That program relies on state funding.
Shin, 31, lives with his mother, Debbie Hansen, who has to help him clean his room.
“He has some sense of self worth and doing something on his own,” Hansen said of her son’s job.
With state budget cuts threatening Department of Economic Security funding for such programs, Hansen, her son and dozens of others marched in protest Thursday at the Arizona State Capitol.
“If they cut the funding from DES, then he would have nowhere to go,” Hansen said. “He would sit home and watch TV for the rest of his life.”
With DES facing a cut of $103 million from its budget for the fiscal year ending in June, the agency planned to cut funding for Division of Developmental Disabilities programs helping more than 4,000 children and adults. However, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge recently stopped DES from making those.
The demonstrators, who came from as far away as the White Mountains, chanted, “Cut your steaks, not our funding,” and cheered Democratic lawmakers who opposed the cuts.
Bernie Dazen, a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, told the crowd she has benefited from the programs for more than 16 years.
“Don’t take our money away,” she said. “Don’t take the money away from our White Mountain Apache people.”
Michelle Reeves, CEO of the Eager-based Reeves Foundation, which provides services to White Mountains-area residents with developmental disabilities, said she doesn’t know how her program and others in rural areas can survive major cuts.
“We wouldn’t be able to provide the services, and a lot of folks would be without them,” Reeves said.
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, the assistant House minority leader, told the group that leaders should use stimulus money to guarantee services to the developmentally disabled.
“Those cuts were wrong in January, and they are wrong today,” Sinema said.
“It’s pretty easy to take a red line and cross that number out,” said Rep. Tom Chabin, D-Flagstaff. “But when it represents people, when it represents you, it becomes harder to do.”