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The Tax Reform Council (TRC) has done a pretty good job overall. Lots of thought and research has resulted in a chance for a broader revenue structure for Georgia, often supporting ideas which have long been sought by business people, advocates and economists alike. Taxing services and the casual sales of cars, aircraft, and boats, and sun-setting many tax exemptions (realizing that most would be reviewed and reinstated and others, not) are a few such ideas.

One proposal, however, which would add a 4% state sales tax on groceries, troubles a number of advocacy groups, including Voices. First let me say that we are aware that this tax could bring in a significant amount of revenue to our hurting state – to the tune of about $500 Million per year. Unfortunately, that tax also would weigh heavily on those who bring home smaller paychecks, pulling a considerable percentage of money out of their earnings to pay for necessities – namely food – for their children and family members.

But we need the revenues, right? Right. So rather than use a regressive tax such as the grocery tax, consider the idea, borne out of the 2020 Georgia tax reform coalition, of lowering the state income tax from 6% to 4.5%, rather than the 4% proposed by the TRC. Such a move would fill the revenue gap nicely, and address the inequity dilemma. There are many families in Georgia for whom even $150 per year lost to a grocery tax could mean the difference between paying a power bill, buying healthier foods, or covering a co-pay at the doctor’s office. Kids need good shelter, good nutrition and good health. Increasing the financial challenge on essential (food) items is not the way to encourage that scenario.

The Department of Community Health’s program, Children 1st, screens all newborns and children up to age 5 to identify those who are at risk for poor health and developmental outcomes. The program then links families to appropriate services. The Governor’s budget, which seems to propose cutting Children 1st funds to the tune of $2.9 million means that it would be harder for the State to identify at-risk children early, significantly lessening the chance that those kids will grow up healthy and ready for school. The loss of these dollars could also increase the demand and cost of special services by delaying treatment from a time when it would be most effective.

Now, technically, we are not sure that the funding is to be officially axed, but the fact that the Governor’s budget did not allocate a specific program line to Children 1st seems to indicate that those funds for the program are on the chopping block. We hope this is not the case, because such a cut to infant and young child health screenings would most definitely lower school readiness and healthy outcomes for kids, as well as raise assessment and treatment costs.

Today, Legislative Day 3, was what many consider the “first work day” for state lawmakers. No special ceremonies or speeches; no snow or ice. Overall, Georgia House and Senate committees are just getting warmed up, having organizational meetings and starting to examine agency budgets in a little more detail than perhaps they did last week during the FY11/FY12 budget hearings. That said, I think today is an opportune time to discuss a sizeable federal issue which cold affect kids right here at home: Federal budget proposals.

This week, Congressmen and women will vote on a resolution (H. Res 38) reducing federal spending to 2008 levels. This approach exempts defense spending. On the other hand, education, health, nutrition, and child welfare services would sustain significant reductions. For example, in this proposal, dollars going to children in special education grants would be cut by 53 percent. Head Start would be cut by 27 percent. Adoption incentives would be slashed by 89 percent. Yet, discussion on how to raise revenues has been surprisingly absent.

Another proposal by the Republican Study Committee would have Congress reduce spending to 2006 spending levels. This amounts to a $2.5 trillion cut over 10 years. It would even rescind any remaining stimulus money, as well as the bump in Medicaid support passed just last summer.

We believe that children are important to all of Georgia’s lawmakers. That said, if one of these resolutions were to pass, how would states like Georgia make up the difference in lost federal dollars?

Hello to the Voices blog community! I am Angela Orkin, and I have been with Voices since September of last year. As advocates for children, it is important that we remember how the world looks from the view of a child. So from time to time, I’ll post stories that friends of Voices have shared about something they remember from their childhood. I’ll kick things off with a story of my own.

My father’s mother, Mimi, taught me that you don’t have to accept the expectations others have for you. We all have ideas about what it means to be 80 years old, but Mimi seemed oblivious to these expectations. When Mimi was in her early 80’s, as a dutiful granddaughter, I called her to check on her. After a few minutes, she interrupted me and said “Thank you so much for calling. I need to go now so I can visit some old people in the nursing home.”

About two years before Mimi passed away, she was referred to hospice for end of life care. One afternoon, after about two weeks of hospice “service” we got a call from the worker. She said, “we would really like to help your mother, but every time we try to visit, she is out!” Mimi refused to stop living because everyone expected her to throw in the towel. By the way she lived, Mimi taught me that you don’t have to conform your behavior to other people’s expectations. I was fortunate to learn this lesson as a child, and I have carried it with me since.

Angela

Angela Orkin
Director of Development and Strategic Planning
Voices for Georgia’s Children

I’ve never hesitated to steal good ideas from other advocates.

Take blogging for instance.

Lots of advocates suffer from some form of bloggaphobia; a not always rational Fear of Blogging.  Either they’re afraid of comments by strangers, or how their fellow colleagues will react to their opinions or their writing ability, or just afraid to dip their toe in and post anything at all.

This isn’t true for the staff at Advocates for Youth based in Washington, DC. Established in 1980 as the Center for Population Options, Advocates for Youth champions efforts to help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health.

Advocates for Youth boasts not one, not two, but five separate blogs, all of which are updated regularly.

http://www.advocatesforyouth.org

I prefer blogs with multiple links or embedded video.  Here at Voices, we are looking for videos that tell stories about children in need and how children benefit when advocates are successful on their behalf.  If you know of sources for these stories, please send them our way.

In the meantime, here’s a great source for blogging tips to get you started: Blog Tips, Blogging for Nonprofits

http://www.blogtips.org/

And an easy-to-follow Top 10 Tips

http://www.rss-specifications.com/10-tips-for-bloggers.htm

Hope to get a link to your next post soon.

Edward McNally

Voices for Georgia’s Children

Welcome back to Voices’ Blog for Georgia’s Children

Over the next weeks and months, look for new (and much briefer!) posts every week from Voices staff and colleagues full of opinion, ideas, best practices, video, photos, tips, advocacy opportunities and links to the latest information about how kids are faring in Georgia and what people across the state are doing to make their lives better.

Beginning today, the staff of Voices for Georgia’s Children will be blogging on a regular basis each week.  We are anxious to generate conversations and to hear your perspectives.  Through this blog and other online tools, we’ll be continuing to expand our network of dedicate advocates working on behalf of children across the state.

Over the next four months, Mindy Binderman, Advocacy Director, will focus largely onlegislative developments under the Gold Dome.  These are the same fact-filled Daily Updates you’ve come to rely on from Voices over the past few years whenever the legislature is in session.  Mindy will also be blogging on a wide range of topics, including advocacy opportunities for professionals as well as parents and other citizens who want to do something to make a difference for kids.

Beth Locker, Policy Director, will be sharing insights and information about issues and best practices related to a wide range of policy areas related to children.

Joann Yoon, our Associate Policy Director for Child Health, will be your source for the latest on national healthcare reform and how it could impact Georgia’s kids and families, among many other health-related topics and Georgia’s own policy environment.

When it comes to young people and families involved with the juvenile court system, Julia Neighbors, Program Director for JUSTGeorgia, will be our eyes and ears.  She, along with Mindy, will be keeping close watch on the progress of SB 292, the Child Protection and Public Safety Act.

Of course, you’ll also be hearing from Pat Willis, our Executive Director.  She’ll be asking tough questions about the status of kids in Georgia and what leaders and voters can and should be doing so that children and young people across our state are healthier, safer, better educated, more connected to their community and ready to find jobs and achieve their full potential.

As Director of Public Policy and Communications, I’ll be talking about how people are talking about kids.  Or rather, how stakeholders and others doing this work are connecting and sharing their ideas and concerns: online, in person, in the media, at conferences and in other public settings.  I’ll be sharing communications and social networking tips for advocates and looking for tips and suggestions from you.

I’ll also be introducing guest bloggers to this space from a variety of communities, including business leaders, small business owners, faith leaders, educators, parents, entrepreneurs, artists, environmentalists, and, perhaps most importantly, kids and young people.

Of course, if you’re reading this, then you’re always invited to make your voice heard by making a comment on anything you see here.  We want to hear from you!  What do you think?  What are your concerns?  What are your suggestions?  How can we do what we do better and more effectively?

Our new conversation starts today.

Thanks for being part of it!

Edward

I am totally mindful that I have only one shot to make a first impression as a new blogger.  Excuse me if I’m a little nervous.  I know I can master the technology.  But this needs something more.  A blog needs your heart and your soul, not just your technical know how.  I’ve made the commitment.

As the Executive Director of Voices for Georgia’s Children I am just one of the Voices staff that will engage you on this blog.  We have an extraordinary group that brings deep knowledge of how children in Georgia are faring, of who does what to deliver services to kids, and how to make sure your voice is heard as an advocate.  I see my own role both in the organization and on our blog as the one who asks “Why?”  Why do children need advocates?  Why should you step out of your comfort zone?  Why will decision makers be persuaded by our arguments?  Why might our position not resonate with certain stakeholders?

Today I want to pose the question “Why must you speak up for children?”  Obviously they don’t vote and are not in the halls of power to speak for themselves.  More importantly, without you, children’s interests cannot compete with the many other issues that are so much better funded.  I believe in our state’s need for transportation, real estate development, utilities, and business.  But these interests have resources at their command that we can only dream of:  legions of corporate experts, armies of industry employees, and decades of political relationships.

Legislation is one way to make change for kids and your contact with those who represent you is a powerful way to advocate.  Many legislators tell us that 10-15 personal contacts on an issue will make them pay attention.   Children may not have money for PACs and entertainment and publicity campaigns, but collectively we, adults who care about kids, have a voice and have the power to vote.   These resources will help children’s interests to compete.

Voices is ready to keep you informed, to alert you to advocacy opportunities, and to share the results.  Children need your voice.  Please join us.

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