Why Is Bullock Denying Supplemental Funding For Community Based Services?

by William Skink

Hey Montana Democrats, I need help understanding why the politician near the top of your political food chain—Governor Steve Bullock—thinks the Medicaid cuts aren’t an unforeseen emergency warranting supplemental funding. Here is Travis Hoffman, Advocacy Coordinator with Summit Independent Living, in a column from today’s Missoulian:

Some legislators asked the governor for a supplemental to address at least some of the Medicaid community services cuts in March. This request was denied, as we understand that the Governor’s Office did not believe that they met the standard for a supplemental, which requires that the expense be due to an “unforeseen or unanticipated emergency.” However, for people who got their services from Helena Industries, which has filed for bankruptcy, or youth with mental illnesses who received services from the recently closed Sinopah in Kalispell or the Great Falls Youth Transition Center, and people who rely on personal care attendants to dress, bathe and eat, whose hours were significantly reduced, it really feels like an emergency.

Given that the record “unforeseen and unanticipated” 2017 fire season was the reason given for Montana’s financial state that brought about many of these cuts, they certainly appear to meet this test to me.

Is Governor Bullock correct in this assertion coming from his office? Or, does Travis Hoffman have a valid point, considering the 2017 fire season was the reason given for Montana’s dire financial situation and is the epitome of an unanticipated emergency?

Making this decision from the Governor’s office even more maddening, additional funds are being considered for the State Hospital in Warm Springs.  Here is Hoffman again making some great points:

Advocates all across Montana have spent the past year trying to prevent individuals with disabilities from being forced into institutions of all kinds — nursing facilities, the Montana State Hospital, jails and prisons. Bullock’s office and the Department of Public Health and Human Services have engaged the disability community on these issues, however, many of those engagements have turned out to be meaningless.

I say that not only because the administration has made certain decisions about where the cuts were made that disadvantage community services. I say that because now, when the governor requests a $20 million supplemental appropriation to provide DPHHS services, it includes money for the State Hospital but does not include any measure to reduce the Medicaid community services cuts.

For those of us in social services this is beyond frustrating. Does the Governor not understand that supportive services are CHEAPER than sending people to institutions like the State Hospital? Or does he just not give a shit, maybe too busy getting that presidential run ready?

Democrats in Montana have feigned helplessness regarding the budget, blaming the entire budget crisis on the Republican majority. Yet here is one of their top politicians denying a chance to mitigate the most harmful aspects of reducing community-based services, opting instead to throw more money at providing significantly more costly services in an institutional setting.

I know the elderly and disabled aren’t big time political donors (therefore can’t help fund Bullock’s presidential pipe dream) but straight up denying supplemental funding to help claw back some of the painful Medicaid cuts is not just stupid, it’s mean.

Please, Montana Democrats, help me understand why Governor Bullock would prefer to fund more costly services at places like Warm Springs while denying disabled people the dignity of keeping the community-based services that allowed them to live as independently as possible in the first place.

Or, better yet, stand up to the Governor and demand a better explanation for this political move.  Someone is benefiting, and it’s not the people your party claims to represent.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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6 Responses to Why Is Bullock Denying Supplemental Funding For Community Based Services?

  1. The answer is simple. The Republicans voted to make all the cuts to DPHHS and Medicaid permanent. This makes them codified into law, and prevents the Governor from backfilling the cuts with a supplemental. The Governor could call another special session, but we all know Republicans would only make matters worse and choose to cut more services. Maybe Travis Hoffman should ask the Republicans why they made the cut permanent? There will now be a harder hill to climb to get services restored next session. Had Republicans not voted to make them permanent, the services would have automatically been restored. Now the Governor and Democratic legislators have to fight to get them put back into the budget next session.

    • if that’s the case then why would the state hospital be able to receive additional funds?

      • The Montana Republicans did not cut the State Hospital’s budget for 2018-2019. A supplemental is for borrowing money from the state hospital budget in 2019 to pay for expenses in 2018. The Governor cannot borrow money from the 2019 Medicaid budget because Republicans cut that budget permanently. There is no money to borrow from. The Governor cannot legally appropriate money the legislature has not authorized, its against our constitution. Again, the real question is why did republicans permanently cut the budget for DPHHS rather than allowing the Governor to backfill cuts if revenues come in higher? No one will ask them this question!!!

        • since you have such a solid understanding of what’s going on, why don’t you write a letter to the editor explaining it for us lay people?

        • Eric says:

          Let me explain – the State has a spending problem, in that they spend more than they receive in revenue.

          The budget needed to be cut, and it needs to be cut a lot more.

          I’m waiting patiently for us to get rid of Bullock, and start repairing the damage caused by he and his predecessor Gov BS.

    • JC says:

      Well, republicans voted to make the cuts permanent. But the governor signed the bill. He could have vetoed it until republicans pulled the most repugnant parts out, if he had any gnarlies. And let’s not forget the democrats that voted for the bill too.

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