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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kentucky Faces Potential Budget Cuts Meltdown

Coalition rallies for disabled

By Beth Musgrave -

FRANKFORT — With tears in his eyes, James Cheely paused before a House budget subcommittee Wednesday as he tried to explain his most important job title.

"I'm the father of a 21-year-old son, Bryan, that has a developmental disability," he said.
Cheely, a coordinator with the Special Olympics of Kentucky and a member of an association for the mentally handicapped in Barren County, was among dozens of people who asked legislators during a budget hearing to spare the mentally ill, mentally handicapped, elderly and chronically ill from budget cuts.

Adam McCoy of Nelson County got a hug from Gov. Steve Beshear during the 874 Coalition's rally.

Amy McCoy of Nelson County joined in the cheering before the start of a rally Wednesday for the disabled at the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort. Advocates urged the legislature not to cut funds for the elderly and disabled.

Later in the day, the 874 Coalition — named for the estimated 874,000 people with disabilities in Kentucky — held a rally to repeat that message to lawmakers.

The rally came as House leaders are poised to unveil in coming days a two-year state budget that deals with a projected $1.5 billion shortfall in the General Fund. That plan does not include any major cuts to social services, said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

However, the plan does remove about $220 million in General Fund money from the state's Medicaid program in hopes that Congress will approve more federal funds for the program by January. If that doesn't happen, Gov. Steve Beshear told those at the 874 rally, the state could lose $600 million in matching money from the federal government for Medicaid.
"We're going to have a total $800 million hole in the budget," Beshear said. "We don't need to be balancing this budget on the backs of the most vulnerable people in Kentucky."

House leaders also are considering cutting $90 million in professional service contracts and eliminating almost 250 political appointees across the three branches of government. That includes about 125 positions in the executive branch.

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