Lawmakers warned advocates for children Thursday that the state will have to find a way to control child welfare costs if those expenses are shifted from property taxpayers to the state.
"We can't take over the cost of this and then allow the judges to tell us how much money we're going to spend," state Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said during debate on the issue Thursday in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Gov. Mitch Daniels and a bipartisan legislative commission have advocated moving child welfare -- about $490 million annually -- to the state to provide property tax relief.
The costs of providing assistance to abused, neglected or delinquent children have been rising an average of about 6.8 percent statewide annually for the past 12 years, well ahead of inflation. The costs vary widely by county.
Capping those costs is virtually impossible because of federal mandates to help children, advocates told lawmakers at Thursday's hearing, one of several being held this month to kick-start property tax reforms before the General Assembly goes into session Jan. 8.
Cathleen Graham, executive director of the Indiana Association of Residential Child Care Agencies, reminded legislators that child welfare is an entitlement program, meaning the law demands that services be provided.
so the legislators don't want to pay for child welfare because it's expensive, and there's no way to control costs because of federal and state mandates. i might be sympathetic to their complaint, except that the counties have been in that situation for years. the law requires that these costs be paid, and until now the state has forced counties to pay them, despite having no power to control the costs. that's a sucky situation for anyone to be in, but it's a bit less sucky for the state than for the counties.
it doesn't help that the front page of the paper has another story about tajanay bailey, a three-year-old girl who was failed by the system, allegedly abused to death by her parents. the juxtaposition just makes the legislators look like heartless bastards. this quote from senator meeks says it all: "I'm reluctant to do this. I want to take care of kids. But entitlement guarantees we have to take care of them regardless of what the cost is."
he wants to take care of kids, but not if it's going to cost a lot! unfortunately, child welfare isn't something you can half-ass. if you do, kids end up dead. so quit your bitching and figure out how to get it done!
update: i see that doug has more, only instead of linking to the star, he links to this AP article.¶