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2 state senators criticize GOP’s budget cuts to social services

Citizen Staff Writer



Democratic State Sens. Linda Lopez and Paula Aboud criticized their Republican colleagues Friday for cutting millions from the state’s 2009 budget for children’s programs.

“There are other ways of dealing with (the budget shortfall) without slashing and burning and putting children at risk,” Lopez said at a news conference at the nonprofit Child & Family Services, 2800 E. Broadway.

“I’m mad as hell and you need to be mad as hell, too,” she said.

The Legislature plans to cut $153 million from the Department of Economic Security budget by June.

Many services at local social service and behavioral health agencies are funded by DES.

Lopez and Aboud spoke to more than 250 Tucson-area social services workers and parents affected by the cutbacks.

Some of the parents whose children get state-funded services brought their toddlers – one boy with Down syndrome, another with cerebral palsy – to put a face on the dilemma.

Employees of more than a dozen local agencies that serve thousands of low-income and at-risk families here heard Lopez and Aboud say it makes no sense to slash day care subsidies to working parents and clothing money to foster parents for the children they’ve agreed to care for.

The funding also keeps other children out of the foster care system and helps young, disabled children learn to walk and feed themselves.

“They (Republican legislators) don’t understand the devastation they are wreaking on this state,” Lopez said.

Aboud said Republicans “missed options available to them to fix this (budget issue) in other ways.

“They failed to talk to the community, the families with special needs children” before they voted to cut spending on services that help low-income children thrive at home and teach their parents how to be better parents.

“They failed to recognize that numbers on the ledger are people,” she said.

Senate President Bob Burns, a Republican from Peoria, could not be reached Friday afternoon. He was not at his legislative offices, his assistant said.

Both Aboud and Lopez said they hope new Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, “will step up to the plate and do the right thing for Arizonans. We’re eager to see what she will do to save programs like Healthy Families.”

They said Senate Democrats will present a package of alternate funding cut proposals at the Capitol on Tuesday. They hope Republicans in both chambers will work together to restore some of the human services funding targeted for cuts.

Eric Schindler, CEO of Child & Family Resources, said Friday what the Legislature has done is “immoral.”

He predicted the numbers of children ending up in Juvenile Court in dependency cases will rise dramatically, as subsidies such as child care for working parents are reduced.

“Hospital admissions will rise,” he predicted, as a result of more abuse and neglect and perhaps domestic violence as parents struggle to keep a job and find safe, alternative child care.

Martín Carillo, a single parent with three young children, said he began receiving state-funded services from Child & Family Resources after his 10-year-old tried to hang himself. He was able to get help for his son and keep his children with him.

“We need the program. That’s all that I can say,” he said.

Leslie Evans, another client of the agency, said she left a violent husband with help from state-subsidized therapy and placement in transitional housing.

She wept as she told the group how she finally regained a feeling of worth, only to lose her therapist to budget cuts.

“I am no longer worthy? My children are no longer worthy of services?” she asked.

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