Advocacy Corner – June 2020

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The Governor released the “May Revised” budget and, as we expected, it is very different from the original budget released in January with substantial proposed cuts throughout the state budget including to health, education, public health, prisons and other programs.. The State Senate has rejected the Governor’s cuts, opting instead to more quickly drain the state’s rainy day fund and reserves without federal aid. We do not at this point know the outcome or which version is best for the long-term needs of those we serve, but Imagine is revising its budget to survive the Governor’s proposal.

Some cuts to the Developmental Services’ budget (from which Imagine receives nearly all of our funding) are proposed to be unconditional and to continue through the year regardless of events. None of these cuts impact Imagine’s budget directly, although they do impact friends and partners of Imagine including programs those we serve also use.    

The largest category of budget changes are labelled as “trigger” cuts. Most notably in this category, payment reductions will impact funding for all of Imagine’s regional-center funded programs by 7.5%.  Imagine projects that our funding will decrease by about $380,000 due to the payment reductions if they are in effect throughout the year. Our passed budget projected about $190,000 in surplus so to balance our budget for the year will require about $190,000 in new revenue or reduced spending. We believe that by a combination of planned growth (~$80,000), delaying raises and enhancements to current benefits (~$65,000) and relying on our reserves (~$45,000), we can survive the two-three years of bad budgets the Governor has projected.” Should the state receive $15B or more from the federal government in flexible funding, the trigger cuts should not come to pass.

We are giving you our thoughts now because we do not want members of the Imagine family to fear for their services, their loved ones or their jobs as the bad news comes out. There will be trade offs. We would prefer to give the raises and benefit enhancements to our staff who merit more. We know that growth risks the quality of care we’re committed to. Growth also stresses Imagine’s working culture, especially with stasis in our administrative team. 

We remain hopeful that the federal government will realize its responsibility to the nation by providing state and local governments with emergency funding to maintain essential services and that these contingency plans will ultimately be unnecessary. A final note, though, is to express a great gratitude to all the members of the Imagine community who have made this organization so resilient. We could be having a conversation along the lines of “if these cuts go through, Imagine will not be able to continue” and I fear that conversation is happening now at many good organizations around the state, maybe even in our County.  We could be having a conversation about drastic cuts which would severely impair the efficiency of our administration and the quality of our services. The austerity to come will not be pleasant and I hate to think that life will get more difficult for the hard-working people at Imagine who already deserve better than they get. But it is some extraordinary grace to be able to face a 7.5% funding cut without fear of closing or drastic changes in personnel. Through whatever comes, I hope you can share my gratitude for everyone who got us here.

-Submitted by Doug

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