A budget is more than numbers, it is a statement of priorities. We are outraged that lawmakers are not currently considering new revenue options even though our communities are suffering and cannot afford the budget cuts that have been proposed. This budget shows whose lives we are willing to balance the bottom line on.
Too often we have seen that it is those who are already struggling in our state and those who do not have a voice in the political system who are harmed most when cuts are made. We woke up Friday morning to the news that the governor pushed through an executive order taking money out of critical health and human service programs, without any notice.
Instead of doing the hard work of looking at ways to bring in new revenue, the state’s Joint Budget Committee is considering billions of dollars in cuts to key programs that Latinx families depend on. These cuts come at a time when our families are still working on the front lines during the virus and are facing homelessness, hunger, mental illness, and threats to safety due to the impact of COVID.
Current proposals include:
-Millions in cuts to mental health services, suicide prevention, and substance use disorder services;
-Cuts to the Colorado Indigent Care Program, which serves the uninsured, immigrants, and low-income families with planning services;
-A reduction in funding to School-Based Health Centers, which are often the only source of health care for uninsured kids;
-A reduction in funding to Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, which given the higher rates of cervical cancer in the Latinx community, would be deadly; and
-A cut to the Health Disparities Program Fund, which is intended to address the very health inequities these proposed cuts would make worse.
The current proposal also includes the elimination of the Child Health Plan Plus, which provides health insurance to more than 75,000 families in Colorado, and deep cuts to the Primary Care Fund, which provides payments to providers that serve the uninsured.
We woke up Friday morning to the news that the governor pushed through an executive order taking money out of critical health and human service programs, without any notice.
We are in the midst of an unprecedented moment – a moment where people are struggling to survive. We have yet to hear from lawmakers on their plans to help those disproportionately impacted by the virus when we get to the other side of this crisis and yet here they are pushing for cuts that will greatly harm our communities.
We recognize that we are facing a financial crisis, but we expect — in fact, demand— a deliberative, democratic process be used to determine how to balance our state’s budget. We demand our lawmakers to consider other revenue options. They cannot balance the budget on the backs of the Latinx community, and other marginalized communities in our state.
Before any cuts are approved, lawmakers need to consider other revenue options and create a transparent process that includes the opportunity for the public and advocates to provide feedback. It cannot be done by those with power and privilege without engaging their communities.
We demand that decision makers:
-Explain how the $1.7B in financial relief from Congress is being used;
-Look at how additional federal financial relief from Congress may be appropriated to offset shortfalls before approving and cuts;
-Explore other opportunities to balance the state’s budget, including finding other revenue sources that are allowable under our constitution; and
-And allow stakeholders—including families and communities already disproportionately impacted by the virus and by proposed budget cuts—to participate in a transparent, deliberative, and democratic process.
According to the Colorado Constitution, the state budget does not need to be completed until July 1. We have the opportunity to develop solutions to this crisis that not only ensure the future economic stability of our state, but also the wellbeing and the health of our communities. We need to slow down and develop a process that makes sense and does not make cruel cuts that hurt the most vulnerable – those who are already struggling to survive. We are better than this – and we demand more.
Dusti Gurule is the Executive Director of Colorado Organization Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR)
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