In recent weeks I have received over 500 emails from constituents and Missourians concerned about proposed budget cuts to areas such as services for the developmentally disabled (DD), the Missouri Autism Waiver, comprehensive psychiatric services (CPS), alcohol and drug abuse (ADA) and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).
I have also received many e-mails expressing concern about proposed cuts to shelters for women and children victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse and health programs for women and children.
These are all areas of great concern to me as Hope House–a domestic violence shelter–is located in Lee’s Summit, much of which I represent. Hope House is actually located across the street from the 47th District that I represent.
As Chairman of the Missouri Children’s Services Commission, I have appointed MaryAnn Metheny, Director of Hope House, to head a subcommittee/working group of the Children’s Services Commission to address issues and recommendations relating to children affected by domestic violence.
I also serve on the Appropriations Committee for Health, Mental Health and Social Services that heard the mega-amendment that proposed these cuts. During our two days of hearings about the proposed cuts I strongly and repeatedly voiced my concern about the process and my opposition to these cuts, voting present instead of for the amendment.
I also strongly protested the process and advocated the need to improve it. Our appropriations committee overseas the three departments that will be most effected, and our most vulnerable citizens that will be most severely impacted by potential cuts—far more than in education. Yet, the education appropriations committee had a week longer to consider their recommendations to the Budget Committee.
A colleague from the other side of the aisle falsely asserted in a politically motivated press release that I could have voted no and stopped the aforementioned cuts. That is not true and represents a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the appropriations and budget process.
He also falsely contended I was pressured to vote for the appropriations recommendations to the Budget Committee. I was not pressured at all and would not change my vote based on such influence. Those who know me understand my passion as a public servant, my commitment to serving constituents and helping those in need. I disdain much of what goes on in the political process.
I have been talking to the next likely Speaker of the House about my interest in being appointed as the next Chairman of the Appropriations Committee for Health, Mental Health and Social Services, which would automatically also place me on the Budget Committee. He has indicated his interest in making that happen.
While I voted present on the mega-amendment proposing the above cuts in protest to them and the process, I voted to refer the recommendations for House Bills 10 & 11 back to the Budget Committee, even though I disagreed with many elements of those recommendations I have outlined above.
To hold up the process would have simply resulted in the Budget Committee considering them anyway and could have jeopardized my future appointment as Chairman, a position through which I can do a lot more good for our most vulnerable citizens in the future. To vote present and no on two simply symbolic votes could have jeopardized all of that.
The appropriations committees are technically subcommitees of the Budget Committee. In the past our committees have simply made recommendations to the budget committee after months of public hearings and hearing from the departments we oversee.
This year the process was changed in that we were asked to submit amendments and actually vote on House Bills 10 and 11 in which appropriations for the Department of Social Services, the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Health and Senior Services are contained.
However, those committee votes did not actually result in a House Committee substitute being reported do pass to the Budget Committee. The committee votes only referred those recommendations back to the Budget Committee. In other words, our committee recommendations are not binding on the Budget Committee.
The House Budget Committee will begin actual markups on the state budget this Monday, March 15th. Therefore, I would urge you to email and call to communicate your concerns to the Budget Committee members before Monday and through the next two weeks as these budget bills head to the House floor.
The day after our appropriations committee referred their budget recommendations to the Budget Committee and my colleagues went home, I stayed behind in Jefferson City to have emergency meetings with the directors of Social Services, Health and Senior Services and the Commissioner of Mental Health and their deputy directors, as well as the Missouri Statewide Independent Living Council (MOSILC) and the Governor’s liaison for those departments–Social Services, Health and Senior Services and Mental Health.
You can read more about that at the following link: http://greensummitdispatch.com/index.php/2010/02/grisamore-works-overtime-to-address-state-budget-cuts-affecting-at-risk-women-children-those-with-disabilities/.
My goal is to find ways to preserve and protect funding for at risk women and children, vulnerable seniors and individuals disabilities. My highest legislative priority is to fight and advocate for individuals with physical and developmental disabilities.
Like many of my colleagues, I also am committed to boiler plate issues, like creating jobs and growing the economy, holding the line on taxes and balancing the budget. The problem in Jefferson City is that while a majority are committed to those things, few will fight for our most vulnerable citizens–at risk women and children, the frail and elderly, and–especially–individuals with physical and developmental disabilities.
I believe they should receive the first portions of government funding and, instead, often get the crumbs off the table, figuratively speaking. We need to create a paradigm shift that makes funding and services for our most vulnerable citizens the highest priority.
I have been working a year with a colleague on mine on a working plan in consultation with the Governor to pursue transformation of disabilities funding and services in Missouri that are evidence based, results oriented and can become best practice models in Missouri and the nation.
That initiative will address many of the concerns I have outlined above and you all have expressed. At the same time, we face harsh state budget realities. General Revenue for Missouri is down 12.7% in the first eight months of the current fiscal year. GR was down this January 22.4% compared to last January and 14.6% in February.
Total GR in FY2008 was $9.26 billion and this year it looks to be coming in at just over $7 billion. That loss of $2 billion in two years is catastrophic and is why the Governor has had to already cut nearly $800 million from the current budget, and he announced more cuts yesterday.
No one wants to see cuts of these kinds, yet politically partisan attackers will use them and misrepresent them for politically gain and portray those like myself as not caring about our most vulnerable, when in fact we do. I have devoted decades of my professional career serving at risk women and children here and overseas, as well as those with disabilities. Our seventh child of ten, a daugther, died from complications of a genetic disability.
At the same time, the state money that used to be there at much higher levels is not any longer—at least for now—in light of current economic realities. While that is where we stand fiscally as a state, I believe there is still much we can do to further prioritize and protect funding for our most vulnerable citizens. I am committed to that and work toward it every day and plan to do so for the rest of my career beyond term limits.
I hope this is helpful in addressing your concerns and I would encourage you all to be e-mailing and calling members of the budget committee in the coming days as they begin their mark ups on Monday, March 15th.
I would also encourage you to direct your concerns to House leadership and all House members as the budget moves to the House floor in the coming weeks. You can access contact information at www.house.mo.gov. Thank you for writing and sharing your concern to protect funding and services for our most vulnerable citizens.
Respectfully at your service,
State Representative, District 47
Missouri House of Representatives
State Capitol – Room 134
201 West Capitol Avenue
Jefferson City, MO 65101-6806