State budget public hearings reveal health program cuts likely loom

Monday, January 31, 2011 at 7:12pm

Gov. Bill Haslam opened public hearings on the next state budget Monday and immediately confronted the possibility of axing programs that combat diabetes, breast and cervical cancer, and child abuse.

The governor listened as his commissioners described potential cuts in the roughly $30 billion state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Health Commissioner Susan Cooper laid out a number of what she called “critically important” programs that will end unless the legislature appropriates new funding for them. These programs have been kept alive during the economic recession with one-time state emergency funds or with federal stimulus money, which is evaporating this year.

“We have over $1.5 billion of non-recurring revenue in this year’s budget,” the governor explained to reporters.  “There’s no way we’re going to find that much money to bring back, so our job is to prioritize. There’s some painful things here.”

Among the initiatives on the chopping block is one aimed at diabetes prevention, which now serves 225,000 people including children in day-care and after-school programs focusing on healthy lifestyles, Cooper said.

The state once had the nation’s worst rate of diabetes. But that $7 million program has helped Tennessee climb ahead of eight other states, she said.

Acting Education Commissioner Patrick Smith brought his own list of disappearing programs, including school nurses, teacher pay for after-school work and funding for public TV stations across the state.

The health department also would stop a $500,000 breast and cervical cancer screening program for 14,000 uninsured and underinsured women, the state’s HIV testing initiative and a program that helps hemophiliacs.

Health department home visits that served 741 families in the past year, and healthy start classes for 1,400 children and their parents, also would end, Cooper said. Both of those programs are intended to reduce child abuse and neglect.

Haslam will hold budget hearings for the rest of this week. His budget recommendation is due to the legislature on March 1.

8 Comments on this post:

By: tedster57 on 2/1/11 at 8:17

The National Breast and Cervical Treatment Program cannot be done away with without a waiver from a federal judge. It was created by an Act Of Congress. Gov. Haslam should know this. All he needs to do is ask Phil. He will find out that it can't be done. Or he can ask me, and I'll explain how the system works!

By: wolfwalker on 2/1/11 at 10:27

Ask a politician what needs to be cut and his or her answer will be any program that is truly helping the people that cannot always help themselves. Why don't they cut their own salaries and health care, that would go a long way. For all politicians to wave their salaries and health benefits for one year, now that would help a lot from the president all the way down to the dog catcher!!!

By: FLeFew on 2/1/11 at 10:59

It doesn't seem that hard. The 30 billion state budget needs to be cut by 5% to cover the 1.5 billion shortfall. Each department should be told to bring in a budget that is at least 10% lower. Then wishlists could be considered to add back the 5%.

First, things like public radio stations and simular programs should be eliminated whether or not there is a shortfall.

I havn't walked through the halls of government buildings in recent years, but when I did frequent them, I was amazed by the number of people with their feet up on the desk reading the paper. I assume they are now surfing the web.

Items like the recent article about a former commissioner getting a part time job in metro for $60,000 a year, aj ob with duties to be determioned later, make one wonder why cutting government is not a no brainer.

By: AmyLiorate on 2/1/11 at 12:00

Well tedster57, if the Federal Judge comes up with the money for a federal program then I doubt the governor will have a problem with keeping that going!

And funding for radio stations when the state is lacking 5% of it's budget, that's a no brainer!

By: cannoneer2 on 2/1/11 at 2:45

As long as we have money for six figure doo-dad positions like the one that was awarded to Jason Mumpower, l won't believe that we truly have a budget problem in Tennessee.

By: pswindle on 2/1/11 at 4:32

When you elect an offical that is not capable, this is what you get., Bill Haslam. Every GOP Governor will start by doing away with medical care for the poor and sick. If the Supreme Court goes along with the Florida Judge, and declare the new health care unconstitutional, there will be no care for the poor., and we that have heathcare insurance will pay for all that do not care to pay for it. I get so mad when one could buy heatth insurance and will not do it. They know the rest of us will have to dig deeper in our pockets to bail them out. This new healthcare has insurance that everyone could buy into. It amazes me that the democratic governors can help the needy, but the GOP just can work it out. In four years under the boy governor, TN will be kicked out of the Union. But he saved his pocketbook by not allowing new non-leaking gas tanks to save our soil and water. He doesn'st have to tell us if he has a conflict of interest business-wise. Boy, we have started the New Year just like the GOP likes. If you can't be forced to by health insurance, let's all stop buying it, and see what happens. All have to buy car insurance is that unconsitutional.

By: pswindle on 2/2/11 at 1:00

O course, that is the good ole GOP at work.

By: pswindle on 2/2/11 at 1:01

Is Haslam taking a salary with all of his millions?