Being your state legislator is both challenging and rewarding. Many of my days are filled with people asking me not to cut the part of the state budget that affects them. Each one has a valid argument and many of their stories are heart wrenching. Unfortunately, our state is severely short of money. We are another $500 million short for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009 and $3 Billion short in FY2010. Even more concerning is that our deficit is projected to increase each and every year if we don’t do something to get our state spending in line with projected revenues.
One of my jobs is to figure out what to do. Experts from every sector of our population have been asked to give their input. Almost all agree that there will have to be spending cuts. Some say we should increase taxes. Others say we should borrow money and others say we should do some of each.
Some problems and answers are clearer than others and every legislator has their own items that they feel are important.
One item important to me is helping our elderly. Over the last few days I have received phone calls and letters from our elderly fearful that some of their in-home services may be cut and that they will have to move into a nursing home, which will cost the state even more money. This sure doesn’t make any sense. I am investigating the issue and will do whatever I can to help.
Another item important to me is education. At this point, K-12 education looks like it will fair well compared to other areas because of the federal money. Many of the fired teachers will probably be re-hired after the schools receive their final budget numbers. All the republican legislators, including myself, voted for legislation that would have prevented many teachers from being fired, just to be re-hired. Unfortunately, the teacher’s union fought against the legislation and almost every democrat legislator voted against the bill and the 2/3 vote needed for an emergency clause did not pass.
Please know that all legislators, both republicans and democrats, are working hard to resolve this problem. We have a huge challenge with very few options. One of the reasons I ran for office was to help people and to make a difference. I know we can do it if we work together.