Services critical to thousands of state residents may soon face the budget axe in the coming weeks as the economy staggers and the state’s deficit mounts to an estimated half-a-billion dollars.
Three out of every $10 the state spends goes directly to the Department of Social Services – $5.4 billion of the state’s $18.6 billion budget. This money goes to a wide variety of human service programs, from child care subsidies to medical assistance programs.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell cut the agency’s budget by $10.4 million in November after her budget office determined the state’s budget was unsustainable. The adopted budget – that became law without the governor’s signature – overestimated how much revenue state’s taxes and fees would generate.
This comes at a time when enrollment in food stamp, medical assistance and other programs run by DSS jumped 18 percent in one year, to almost one million people.
When the Democratic-led legislature reconvenes Feb. 3, they will have to address the deficit by either cutting funding or raising taxes and fees. Meanwhile, Rell has called on the legislature to expand the amount she is allowed to cut from department’s budgets.