Although this blog is written primarily for myself, I'm going to take a moment to get Political. I live in California. Last year, our Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown, decided that a good way to save the State money was to cut $175m from services provided to disabled children. The entire state budget for these services was about $600m (depending on who you ask), cutting close to 1/3 of the overall state funding.
This budget has been adopted for this year.
I am not a politician. I am not an accountant, nor statistician, but I am a taxpayer, and I am a parent of a child with Autism.
Let's jump ahead to this year... our regional centers (basically, the local office that deals with services for disabled children) have started to charge an annual fee to families that receive services... ANY services. The fee is $150 annually for a family income at 400% of the Federal Poverty Level, and $200 for 800% of the Federal Poverty Level. It is noteworthy that this number does not take location of residence, cost of living analysis, or even California Adjusted income into account.
Personally, I receive more than $200 worth of services through the regional center (because they send me a fancy statement of services every year... how much does that cost?), nor is $200 something that I would consider cost-prohibitive, but...
It is absolutely reprehensible to turn State Services for Disabled Children into a fee-based program. The DMV in california is a fee based program... if you don't have a car, or you don't drive, or don't use them for anything, you don't have to pay them anything. The DMV still receives general State tax funding, but utilizes its fees to operate as well.
These are my fears...
1) The DDS (Department of Developmental Services) in Sacramento will see this as a "money maker" and perpetually raise this fee or, worse yet, start charging fees on a per service basis in future years.
2) $150 or $200 would be cost-prohibitive to families. I would hate to think of a family not pursuing services for their child because they didn't want to pay the fee(s).
3) More services/responsibilities would fall upon the school districts (in California, this begins at age 3). This might ease the costs of the DDS, but would increase the costs on the school districts... guess what? BOTH ARE PUBLICLY FUNDED! It might be a different pocket, but it's the same damn pair of pants.
The letters I have written to the governor (which have been unanswered) basically go like this.
Mr. Brown, it is truly reprehensible that you would cut the budget to services for disabled children in a time that demand for said services is exploding. I understand that the State is suffering financially. I understand that cuts must be made to our budget. It is, however, cowardly, to make those cuts to those who are the least likely to be able to defend themselves. Your actions embarass me as a tax-paying Californian, Insult me as the parent of a child with autism, and betray me as a Democrat. I am asking you to, not only repeal the cuts your budget made to children's disabled services, but increase the funding.
The State Legislators are receiving their own letters.
If you live in California, especially if you do NOT have a child receiving services, I urge you to send your own letter.
Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160
If you took the time to read this, I sincerely appreciate it.
I promise the next post will be about something funnier... like farts.
Remember... Autism Sucks