Within the Department of Mental Retardation line items, the governor restored $8.4 million out of the $9.8 million he had cut. The restored funding included the following:
–A $2 million increase in the Turning-22 program. Turning 22 provides transitional funding to persons with mental retardation when they reach the age of 22 and are no longer eligible for special education services provided by local school systems. Despite a rising caseload, the Turning 22 program had not received an increase in several years. This year, the Legislature approved the $2 million increase, Romney vetoed it, and the Legislature last summer overrode the veto.
–$4 million in residential and day program services for persons with mental retardation.
— $1.37 million in community day and work programs for persons with mental retardation.
–$1 million under the settlement of the Boulet lawsuit, which provides funding for people with mental retardation who are on a waiting list for care in the community system.
Several important areas of funding were not restored, however. The governor did not restore his cut of the $28 million, approved by the Legislature over his veto, to increase the compensation for underpaid direct-care, human services workers.
He also decided not to restore his cut of $618,000 in respite and family services for persons with mental retardation, and his cut of $34,933 from DMR’s new Autism Division.
If Governor Romney was hoping that the restoration of the $41 million out of his total $425 million in mid-year cuts would quell the chorus of protests, however, he is mistaken. A planned rally at the State House of recipients of human services and their advocates is still on for Wednesday December 6.
We’ve said before that we think the governor was playing politics with the lives of the most vulnerable residents of the state in making the cuts in the first place. The fact that he has reconsidered and is restoring at least some of those cuts is good news. But it also shows how little thought or proper consideration went into the decision to make the cuts in the first place.
Mitt Romney clearly was trying to use his budget-cutting powers last month to stake out an ideological position for himself in the 2008 presidential sweepstakes as a hard-hitting fiscal conservative. Instead he came across only as hard-hearted. And now we see that this is one ideological presidential campaign that may be short on competence as well.
Some political advice: Governor, you seem to recognize the embarrassment that Wednesday’s State House rally will cause you. Restore all of the human services cuts you’ve made, and you’ll be sure to avoid that embarrassment.