Who's behind budget cuts?

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Anabelle Linzey (right), has severe brain malformations and needs round-the-clock care. She lost her Medicaid coverage as part of a new state push to purge ineligible families from the program. Annabell was indeed eligible -- a caseworker had lost the family's paperwork.

The Corbett administration claims it doesn’t agree with the extremist viewpoints of a former welfare policy adviser. However, recent edicts reflect the adviser’s opposition to public support of health care for children, food for the poor, and day care.

Robert Patterson, a policy adviser with the state Department of Public Welfare, resigned from his $104,470 job after Inquirer reporters Angela Couloumbis and Amy Worden asked about his side job as an editor at a conservative journal “Family in America,” which opposes abortion, homosexuality, and women in the workforce.

 

Patterson has written articles advocating cuts to government programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, and children’s health insurance, and questioned the effectiveness of day care. Those are the very same programs feeling the sharp edge of state budget cuts.

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Has Gov. Corbett gone too far with cutbacks in welfare programs?

The state has cut 88,000 children from Medicaid since August as it plods through questionable eligibility reviews. Many were dropped because DPW couldn’t find the paperwork, even though the clients had proof that they’d submitted the proper documents.

In May, DPW is set to cut thousands off food stamps, even though they meet the income threshold of 160 percent of the federal poverty level. The state wants to impose an obsolete assets test that would render people under 60 ineligible if they had more than $2,000 in assets. For those over 60, the amount would be $3,250. The figures have not been adjusted for inflation since 1980.

As the economy foundered in 2008, the Rendell administration scrapped the assets test. Thirty-five states have thrown it out. Pennsylvania’s move will hurt the unemployed, elderly people on fixed incomes, and poor families trying to save money to get out of poverty.

The Corbett administration also cut funding for day care, even though it helps working parents, which ultimately saves the government money.

Now, the administration is flouting the state’s open records law by denying access to the resumes of three other DPW policy advisers. Given the agency’s service cuts, there are legitimate questions to be asked about the qualifications of the people behind those decisions. In several other cases, the Office of Open Records has ruled that resumes are public records.

If Patterson’s departure is to be seen as more than an attempt by the administration to distance itself from his radical views, it needs to do a better job of explaining how and why it makes decisions on budget cuts. It also needs to be more open about the people making public policy that affects millions of Pennsylvanians.

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