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As advocates for children and families in Georgia, we are concerned about recent attempts within states to scale back vital health care programs for our most vulnerable citizens. The move began with Arizona Governor Brewer’s request to the federal government for a waiver from a regulation that prevents states from cutting some income groups from the Medicaid program. In response, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s spokesperson was quoted by Bloomberg news organization earlier today that while the Governor has not offered specific cuts he “would happily work on such a proposal.”

I am certain our governor is aware that Medicaid helps children ages 0-5 whose families are at or below 133% of the federal poverty level (FPL), (for instance, a family of four which earns a little over $29,000/year). It helps children 6-19 whose family earns at or below 100% of the FPL. I find it hard to believe that in these times of high unemployment, lower wages, and increased family stress, that our leadership would embrace restricting medical coverage for what is a growing percentage of our state’s citizenry. Losing a job equates to a loss of employer-sponsored coverage not just for the adult involved, but for the children of the family as well.

In addition, cutting health care coverage would make it harder for kids to access primary care and manage chronic conditions, which in turn would result in poorer health outcomes and greater costs down the line. I would ask the governor’s staff to consider these impacts before making such a seemingly glib remark.

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FY 2011:
For the current fiscal year Deal lowered the revenue estimate by $27.5 million while also adding more money for K-12 schools mostly to make up for increased enrollment. Most state agencies will have to enact 4 % cuts for the rest of FY2011, although most agencies have been aware that this could be the case, and so have been preparing for the formal ask.
FY 2012:
For 2012, Governor Deal believes state revenue will be 3.75% higher than the current fiscal year, but the need to replace more than $1 billion in federal stimulus money, which goes away at the end of FY 2011 will negate much of that growth. That said, state agencies are being asked to cut their budgets by an average of 7%.
What’s Next:
The budgets now go to the House Appropriations Committee which traditionally amends the budget, but cannot change the revenue estimates.

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