Saturday, January 29, 2011

In Montana, advocates, religious leaders protest cuts to HHS programs

From The Helena Independent-Record:

More than 100 people rallied Jan. 28 against legislative committees' cuts to budgets for education and health and human service programs.

Participants carried signs with such messages as "Budget Ain't Broke. Don't Fix it," "People First" and "Ignorance Is More Expensive Than Education" Some shook jars of change as noisemakers.

"We need to do better," said the Rev. Dan Krebill, co-pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Bozeman. "The first step in reversing the irresponsible cuts passed in the first week is for legislators to talk to the people who use and provide these services every day."

As a pastor, Krebill said he sees firsthand the consequences of gaps in public services every day in his ministry.

"Cuts to human services passed in the first week of the session will make it harder for Montana families to get by and overcome the lingering effects of the recession," said Krebill, president of the Montana Association of Churches.

Anna Volkersz, a home health care worker from Belgrade, said these workers are the lone connection that many of their clients have to the outside world. Home health care allows them to continue to live in their own homes instead of at group homes or being financial burdens on their families, she said.

"As a home care worker, these cuts are pretty scary for my family and the people I look after every day," she said. "If you take our jobs away, you're putting one more person on the unemployment line and making it harder and disabled Montanans to get by."

Brianne Harrington, owner of the Painted Pot, a small business in Helena, said her business wouldn't exist without the publicly funded roads and highways and the protections by publicly funded firefighters.

"The most important investment of all is education," she said. "I cannot emphasize enough the importance of public education for businesses and Montana's future."

Kayla Miller, presenting the Associated Students of Montana State University-Billings, said Montana's future depends on people's access to an affordable education.

The Montana University System campuses are serving 48,000 students this year.

"However, we won't be able to prepare those students to enter the workforce without continued investments in education," she said.