Conservative opinion makers have often pointed to Sam Brownback — who, after a long career as a U.S. senator, was just recently elected the Republican governor of the state of Kansas — as a model of “compassionate conservativism.” Indeed, with his more moderate stances on issues like immigration and his past work on human rights issues, this title does have some merit.
However, the governor’s newly released budget plan is anything but compassionate. Rather than choosing to responsibly raise revenue to protect services for the most vulnerable Kansans, Brownback’s budget guts many of the state’s most important programs. Included among these cuts is lowering state education aid per student to its lowest level since 2000 and eliminating funding for the Kansas Arts Commission.
Yet perhaps the most brutal cut in Brownback’s budget comes to the Kansas Neurological Institute (KNI). The governor proposes completely eliminating funding to the institution by 2014, which would force it to close down. KNI serves nearly 160 people with severe mental disabilities; two-thirds of its patients cannot walk and four-fifths are unable to speak.
Brownback’s decision has spurred dissent from state legislators, both Democrats and Republicans. “How Christian is this?” asked Rep. Annie Kuether (D-Topeka), who represents the district that KNI is in:
Rep. Annie Kuether, a Topeka Democrat serving a district that includes the KNI campus, said Brownback’s attitude on KNI belied his vow to protect vulnerable Kansans. “How Christian is this?” she said. “It’s passing the buck. It puts all the costs back on the community.”Rep. Lana Gordon and Joe Patton, both Topeka Republicans, said they objected to closing KNI. “I appreciate the wonderful care the staff provides and what an important service it is for our community,” Patton said.
The Brownback administration claims that community health services will be able to take up the patients after the closure of KNI. This would likely pass on the cost of caring for the patients to cash-strapped municipalities. It’s also unclear if there is even room for the patients among community services. In 2009, a government commission voted to close KNI, but the recommendations were never followed through, partly because there was a waiting list of “approximately 4,000 people with disabilities who are already waiting for home- and community-based services.”
The country’s attention is particularly focused on the needs of the mentally ill following the Tucson shooting. Now would seem to be the worst time to make the most vulnerable among us pay for a recession caused by Wall Street’s excesses.
[featuredcomment]Zxbe writes, “Since so many Republicans are conservative Christians they may need to be reminded of it:
“Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”[/featuredcomment]