The contrast couldn’t be more stark. Michigan Republicans and Democrats are not even in the same book, let alone on the same page, when it comes to what politicians like to refer to as “our most precious resource” — our children.
Michigan House Republicans approved a budget which will slash funding for the Department of Human Services, the agency that serves the most vulnerable among us. The budget proposes to cut 1,000 jobs in that department — 9 percent of its workforce. Under the GOP plan the agency will be severely handicapped in its capacity to handle the core functions of welfare, food assistance and child abuse cases. Worker’s caseloads would increase by 7 percent, adversely impacting foster care and child protective services. Although the state is under a court-ordered mandate to improve conditions in these services, Republicans refuse to adequately fund the programs.
A decline in services for children in need will predictably lead to increased delinquency and incarceration of the state’s poorest children. The GOP is additionally planning on privatizing three juvenile detention centers (Escanaba, Grayling and Whitmore Lake) to save money. As Democracy Tree investigated last year, privatization of prisons is not only a very bad idea, (that doesn’t save money), but it creates a de facto slave labor force.
What we have in the GOP House Human Services budget is effectively an initiative to make “our most precious resource” a lifelong slave labor market for private prisons.
Michigan Democrats also revealed their budget plans. The Associated Press reports that their focus is on K-12 and higher education funding and middle-class tax relief. Democratic House Leader Griemel said:
“Our priorities are tax relief for middle-class families, restoring funding to education and increasing economic security for Michigan families. The governor’s agenda puts corporations before middle-class families”.
It is safe to say that these priorities will not be reflected in the final budget.
The Senate Human Services subcommittee is set to vote this afternoon on their budget. Congress must then hammer-out their differences by the June 1st deadline.
Our most precious resource will surely be the biggest loser.
Amy Kerr Hardin This article also appears in Voters Legislative Transparency Project