Wednesday, November 11, 2015

It Just Doesn’t Matter

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It just doesn’t matter.

Today, I’d like to share some words (you can judge if they are “of wisdom” or not) that I shared with members of the Board of Directors of the Imagine! Foundation back in 2010:

The Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting has proposed another 2.0% rate cut in July of 2010. We place no blame for our current economics, but rather seek to understand the meaning in our world of services. In some areas of the economy, you simply spend less with lowered revenue. A typical family budget would react this way. Our contracts with the state however, expect us to do exactly what we are doing today, with less revenue. Next year that projection is about $750,000 less. The advice I give my teenagers is, “Don’t buy a car that you can’t afford to insure and maintain.” Our service systems in Colorado were designed in a time when the state thought it could insure everyone eligible would be served and maintenance of the system was affordable. Now the state owns an old car, without enough seats, and the car is in bad need of repair. 

My second issue is with regard to our economic recovery. I am optimistic that we will see a slow recovery. However, because of the growing number of adults who are eligible for service, and existing TABOR restrictions, I am predicting a couple of events that together will not work in our favor. When the state can afford to appropriate more dollars to address citizens with developmental disabilities and their needs, they will first serve more people, instead of restoring the rates we enjoyed two years ago. They will only be able to grow this appropriation at a pace allowed by TABOR, thus never catching up to the number of people who are eligible. Growing the rates will be a very difficult public negotiation, considering the number of people without needed service. Our available workforce will migrate to businesses that will enjoy the return of good economic times. By virtue of the state’s design of service delivery, we will be challenged to maintain a workforce to deliver services without improved rates. 

Though I don’t expect anyone to have forgotten, just a reminder: at that time, Colorado and the nation remained mired in a deep recession, which many used as an excuse to cut rates for providers of services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in Colorado.

Fast forward to 2015, and here’s what I wrote in my most recent report to the Foundation Board of Directors:

In my January 2010 report to you, during the heart of the recession the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting proposed a 2.0% rate cut in July of 2010. We navigated through several years of rate cuts during the recession. The State expects the same level of service no matter what the rate we are paid. Curiously, this week, during a booming economy, the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting again proposed a 1.0% rate cut for our services. 

Last year, while our rates increased by 1.7%, the cost of doing business rose 2.7%. Combine this news with our dwindling workforce (Boulder County is reporting a 2.7% unemployment rate), and any available workforce is migrating to businesses that are enjoy the return of good economic times. We are again challenged to maintain a workforce to deliver services with inadequate rates. 

Now we have a good economy, but we’re still seeing cuts. One could argue that it just doesn’t seem to matter how the economy is doing, the State’s budget cutting compass always points to services for I/DD like we are the magnetic north.

Economy’s bad? Cut rates. It just doesn’t matter.

Economy’s good? Cut rates. It just doesn’t matter.

So why is this the case? Check out this blog next week to find out.

Or don’t. It just doesn’t matter.

Then again, what do I know?

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