Budgeting isn’t easy in a lean revenue year. The process of re-examining every line item for possible savings can be a good one when used judicially to weed out frivolous spending.
But it you’re not careful, it can come off as a heartless and short-sighted one, too.
Iowa legislators in a budget committee bill approved Wednesday are proposing to cut funding about 20 percent or $4.1 million from assistance grants for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
They need to reconsider.
If it’s not bad enough that people are being battered and abused, then often humiliated in a courtroom, we as a state should not be victimizing them a third time.
The budget for the victims’ assistance program had already been cut by $260,000 during mid-year budgeting paring.
Some legislators are claiming that the cut isn’t really a cut. The feds also help fund the programs, they insist, and will make sure victims are taken care of and that no services are ever lost.
Have they seen what’s going on in Washington lately? One has to wonder where this confidence in a benevolent central power is coming from. It seems like just shifting of responsibility.
Advocacy groups beg to differ with the legislators - they say further reductions will affect staffing and diminish their capacity to provide the needed services.
I think local people can see what our local CAASA program has already had to do in recent years, constantly fundraising and depending on charity events to be able to continue the advocacy that is so badly needed.
In a state budget of over $7 billion, the state’s justice budget is about $560 million for next fiscal year. The money being cut from the victims’ programs amounts is a small fraction of 1 percent. But that small cut could be a costly one.
“The impact is likely thousands of survivors that don’t get served around our state,” says Janelle Melohn, director for the state’s Crime Victims Assistance Division. “It will mean a bigger impact felt in our rural areas.”
The Department of Corrections also faces another cut in the justice budget, and so does the Attorney General’s office. Victims are not the only ones being asked to bite the bullet in the name of budget-balancing.
We realize too that budgeting is a complex process. Money in
certain areas and from certain sources can only be spent on certain things, and comparisons of spending priorities in different categories can be an apples-to-oranges exercises in futility.
But it’s hard not to note that while the relatively small budget for victim’s funds are being deeply cut, and key areas such as higher education and human services targeted in the governor’s budget proposal earlier, while, “The fastest-growing part of state government has been tax giveaways to large corporations,” as Senator Joel Bolkcom said recently.
The state reportedly gave out over $42 million in 2015 alone to 186 corporations to fund “research activities.” That program was created to help business startups in the state with their R&D, but instead became corporate welfare for the some of the biggest companies - the top recipients of the Iowa money include DuPont, Monsanto, Rockwell Collins and Deere. Not exactly poor mom and pop start-ups there. This fund alone is expected to pay out $75 million a year by 2020.
State and local governments reportedly offered Kraft Heinz over $20 million after it threatened to cut some jobs in Davenport. This is what we are coming to in these times - not simply helping companies to create new jobs, but paying blackmail to keep them from pulling jobs out of the state.
If you care to believe The Iowa Policy Project, Iowa gives enough breaks to out of state corporations in a year to fund a 1 percent state aid increase for all the state’s public schools.
“Iowa legislators facing projections of scant revenue growth for next fiscal year will have a difficult time adequately funding education and other priorities, but their dilemma is largely self-inflicted. A penchant for tax cuts over the past 20 years has left the state with a long-term revenue shortfall,” claims the think tank, projecting that business tax breaks will drain $611 million in revenue in the coming year.
In a $7.4 billion budget, if we can’t find enough money to help victims get back on their feet in our state, shame on us.
This has become an era in which those who are most vulnerable often seem the most likely to be targeted. Iowa shouldn’t follow that trend.