The yo-yoing continues! Legislators are really struggling—they’ve been meeting since last Wednesday night, and they are still not through the money report. The gap between the Senate and the House is still in the hundreds of millions.
What has been going on: The conference committee meetings are underway. Last week the Health and Human Services conference committee met for over 17 hours but did not make much progress. The pressure is huge and the struggles are painful to consider. One of the issues that is causing lots of worry is the need for state dollars to access federal stimulus dollars. Some items cannot be cut or the state will lose even more funding. This puts Smart Start at great risk, because they do not consider this early childhood funding “necessary” to access federal dollars. There is also a rumor that the rules that would limit cuts to be between the Senate and House proposals (see chart) are going to be lifted. For Smart Start, the range was between $5 million and $15 million. If the rule is suspended, the cut could get considerably larger.
There is some good news. It seems that the Plus program is off the table, and the cut to subsidy has been reduced tentatively from $16 million to $12.6 million. This particular reduction is good because it will help the state pull down the federal stimulus dollars for child care subsidy.
What you need to do: Call your legislators – again ! Acknowledge the pressure that they are under, but tell them they need to hold firm on early childhood (staying in the range of the House and Senate proposals). And be sure to share your stories of the impact of cuts to date. Some folks seem to believe that the early childhood cuts last year were no a big problem, we need to show them otherwise. The names of the conference committee members and their numbers are can be found here. Clearly, leadership of the House and the Senate need to be targeted too. Senator Basnight and Speaker Hackney need to hear from all of us – even if you don’t live in their district.
Do not forget the Governor! She has been traveling across the state talking about the need for more taxes to address public education, but has not yet mentioned Smart Start or More at Four! We can not let her off the hook on this. She named herself the “mother of Smart Start” and now she ignores it when she talks about education. Smart Start and More at Four are the beginning of a good education. Call her (919-733-4240), fax her (919-733-2120), write on her Facebook page, email her or show up at one of her town hall meetings and fuss at her about forgetting the youngest children.
Thanks for everything you are doing, keeping the pressure on.