The last few years have not been a great time to be a kid in Nebraska. Our child poverty rates are higher than they’ve been in a decade and we’ve continued to make cuts to programs serving our state’s vulnerable children:
- In 2009, the state moved to privatize the child welfare system, a decision which has resulted in significant turmoil for kids in the system ever since.
- In 2010, our state stepped back from providing the universal prenatal care to low-income women that we’d been providing for decades.
- In 2011, we cut reimbursement rates for child care providers serving very low-income working families.
What we heard over and over again is that we do care about kids, but that there was just no money to spend on them.
Although the state has not fully recovered, financial times have gotten better and now we’re faced with a choice. We can label our vulnerable children a “special interest,” pass a tax cut, and continue to not invest in our future or we can start to reverse some of the ways in which we have been shortchanging Nebraska’s kids.
Yesterday, the Appropriations Committee passed a budget that takes steps toward addressing some of these issues for kids by providing funding for our struggling child welfare system and restoring some of the cuts made to providers in the Medicaid program. The Governor continues to insist that we can’t make these investments until we pass a tax cut that, as currently proposed, provides only a minimal increase in paychecks for most Nebraska families.
Doing the math shows that we can’t cut taxes, make investments in kids, and ensure that our state has adequate reserves for the future. Taking a look at our tax code as a whole and looking for ways to improve it is a good idea, and one we wholly support. However, we maintain that passing a minimal tax cut that increases our deficit and comes at the expense of investing in kids is a bad idea.
We appreciate the leadership of the Appropriations Committee in advancing a budget that starts to restore some investments in our kids and hope that it’s just a first step in a brighter future for our state’s vulnerable children.