Budget Cuts that Hurt

December 09, 1990

After imposing $176 million worth of budget cuts on state government, Gov. William Donald Schaefer now wants agencies to make another $34 million worth of reductions, including 1,800 staff layoffs. These are moves that clearly make the governor wince, especially when the impact of these cuts becomes clear.

Take, for instance, the decision to discontinue the Kidney Disease Program. This model program enables the working poor to receive their kidney dialysis treatments to cleanse their kidneys of impurities. The state has been picking up the difference between federal payments and the cost of treatment. It averages at least $75 a week for these 3,000 dialysis patients.

Somehow, these people have to find ways to continue their medical treatment. Otherwise, they face the prospect of frequent hospital stays and ultimately death. One way is to qualify for Medicaid -- but that would mean forcing working people into poverty and off the employment rolls.

That's the reverse of what the Schaefer administration has been trying to accomplish. It is also a "solution" that endangers human life and in the long run raises the cost to government.

As the recession deepens, Mr. Schaefer says government cannot do everything. "Many things the public is used to will be removed, will be out," he notes. It will "cause difficulties." Private groups and charities must pick up the slack. Families will have to do more to help loved ones and friends.

As Round two of spending cuts takes place, these gubernatorial suggestions ought to be kept in mind. "Downsizing" may be a popular term with voters, but for people in need it means loss of critically required services. Legislators, especially, should study this dilemma before they close the door completely on revenue enhancements that might lighten the human tragedy that is sure to accompany these budget cuts.

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