Advocates fear GOP lawmakers will target DHHS for cuts

Posted January 27, 2011

— The new Republican leadership in the General Assembly wasted no time in the opening days of the legislative session spelling out their spending priorities as the state faces a projected $3.7 billion deficit.

"I believe government needs to be as small as possible to provide for people's safety, to provide for education and to provide for infrastructure – and not much else," House Speaker Thom Tillis said Wednesday.

The sentiment, which was echoed by Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, has caused alarm among social services advocates who feel the state Department of Health and Human Services will lose out as lawmakers try to balance the budget.

"It's clear health care is an afterthought," said Adam Linker, a policy analyst with the North Carolina Health Access Coalition.

Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said he considers health care part of public safety, and Berger said he considers DHHS a funding priority and dismissed concerns that the budget would target the agency for cuts.

"I don't think you can read too much into that. (Not mentioning DHHS) is probably an inadvertent slip," said Berger, R-Rockingham.

DHHS is the second-largest piece of the state budget, trailing only education.

Tillis said that lawmakers will ask about each line item expenditure as they work through the budget process.

"We're going to make cut decisions at that level, not broad-based program cuts, not broad-based departmental cuts that they're so accustomed to," he said.

Department of Health and Human Services, DHHS generic Advocates fear GOP lawmakers will target DHHS for cuts

Berger said, however, that lawmakers will look at everything in making budget cuts, "including entire programs."

Sen. Doug Berger, D-Franklin, said he's troubled by whispers of pending cuts he has heard in the legislature.

"I have grave concerns," said Doug Berger, who used to oversee the DHHS budget committee in the Senate. "(I've heard) perhaps the elimination of entire programs, such as Smart Start and home health care. I think all these things would be disastrous for the state."

Social services advocates also expressed concern about the Republicans' hard line on taxes. The GOP has said it wants temporary sales and income taxes approved two years ago to expire, and it won't support any new tax increases to help close the budget gap.

"If they are honestly going to eliminate the one-cent sales tax, then they just can't close a $3.7 billion budget hole without slashing health and human services," Linker said.

"The people with mental health issues have nowhere to go but state government," said Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe.

Tillis said he would like people to withhold judgment for a month so lawmakers can get the budget process started.

"Give us the opportunity to go out there to get to those lower levels of budget decisions and expenditures and let us make assessments to the extent they're core (or) non-core, and then judge us on that basis," he said.


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  • ddm76 Jan 31, 2011

    Well, the mental health department of this state keeps on screwing the people who have chosen to work with those in need. Who makes up the CAHBA bullchips rules anyway??!! I hope the NCLPC board makes changes to their requirements to obtain licensure!

  • brjunc Jan 28, 2011

    It's amazing to watch all our lawmakers talk about how education is top priority, and then make most of the budget cuts from education. DHHS needs a major trimming as do ALL state departments. Go with accross the board and if the UNC system needs to raise tuition, do it. 5% wouldn't be that big of an increase on tuition.

  • mep Jan 28, 2011

    If you cut each and every departments budget equally, all share in the suffering, and none can complain.

  • fatchanceimwrong Jan 28, 2011

    The concept is simple. Keep handing out free anything and there will always be hands outstretched to receive. Provide for others and they will not provide for themselves.

    Quit giving out freebies and people will put their hands back in their own pockets, realize there's no money there, and go do something to support themselves.

  • affirmativediversity Jan 28, 2011

    Everyone needs to remember:

    Mental Health Services have been systematically elimated by THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY, while they were in power for the last 100 years.

    Example...JUST LAST YEAR...the DEMOCRATIC MAJORITY in the STATE LEGISLATURE, lead by DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR BEV...SLASHED Mental Health Service throughout North Carolina, eliminating publicly funded Mental Health offices/locations in all but the largest counties. Bev and the DEM's also SLASHED public funding for in home care for seniors...

    Instead they added funding in the Millions for "Hand Held Devices" for Teachers and maintained their "INTERNATIONAL OFFICES for TOURISM and TRADE in CANADA, CHINA, GERMANY, UK and MEXICO!!!!!

    Yup, that's the DEMOCRATIC PARTIES PRIORITIES...I'm thinking the Republican's can't do worse!!!!!!!!!!

  • sillywabbitthepatriot Jan 28, 2011

    No one's looking for a raise in their pay check. NC and the US are in debt. We can't continue to borrow money we don't have.

  • ckblackm Jan 28, 2011

    enforce the rules, implement drug tests. Give assistance to those who truly need it.. and the boot to those who don't.

  • dixieboy Jan 28, 2011

    We can't keep spending what we don't have. Someone once said everybody's gotta have skin in the game.

  • penelope1 Jan 28, 2011

    The thing is; if they make all these cuts I don't believe we will see a dime more in our paychecks. So don't get a false sense of security in thinking the State will give us any money back for all this cutting they'll be doing. They'll find something else to do with that money. I know people sitting on their behinds all day that are just as able bodied as I am to work but they have milked the system for years and I think if you've been on public assistance for more than a year; they need to be removed, no food stamps, no free housing and no check. My dad was 87 when he died; he worked all his life and lived alone. He was a very indepenent man and rarely asked for help; he tried once to get food stamps they gave him $17 worth. However; some of the couch mashers I know gets $400 - $500 in food stamps per month. I can't afford to buy that amount groceries a month and I work. There is waste in all departments not just DHHS but that's a start.

  • sillywabbitthepatriot Jan 28, 2011

    Common sense should awaken those in office to realize that with increasing drug abuse and obesity in the poor will not only raise costs with DHHS but will soon cause the costs of health care to hit the roof. We can not continue to borrow money to keep up all these people dependent upon others, especially when they willfully harm themselves by eating junk and abusing drugs and alcohol. Someone has to take the lead and start returning responsiblity upon people who are dependent upon tax revenue to survive. Cut DHHS. Require drug tests. The waste has got to stop.