CHARLESTON, W.Va. — With the Legislature preparing for its special budget session, the Our Children, Our Future Campaign to End Child Poverty is still arguing for a larger investment in the future of the state’s children.
McKay said Tomblin’s budget would cut $357,900 from domestic violence programs, a 14.3 percent reduction; $250,000 from in-home family education programs, a 25 percent reduction; $150,464 from Family Resource Networks, an 8.5 percent reduction; $111,908 from child advocacy centers, a 7.4 percent reduction; $80,000 from the Children’s Trust Fund (which promotes child abuse prevention programs), a 26.7 percent reduction; and $30,000 from the Domestic Violence Legal Services Fund, a 7.5 percent reduction.
Gregory Puckett, executive director of Community Connections Inc., the Family Resource Network for Mercer County, said, “Children and families across our state are truly dying from the problems that we see.
“We’ve got problems down in the southern coalfields, where I’m from, that you just don’t see anywhere else in the state. Over in McDowell County 49 percent of the kids live with neither biological parent. They’re trying to get the base services they need,” and Family Resource Networks provide many of those services.
Puckett said that when he started with the Family Resource Network in Mercer County in 2001, it received $50,000. “Over the years that’s been cut down to $40,000. Last year it was down to $38,400 and now we’re looking at going down to $34,000 to operate an entire agency…we can’t take the cuts anymore. We just can’t do it.”
Smith noted that the legislative session ends March 8, so the next several days will be crucial.
“This is the final stretch,” he said. “Through dozens of regional forums, 4,000-plus messages to legislators, and constant presence in the Capitol, we have put ourselves in a position to win seven victories this year… but only if we continue to push!”
Here’s the status of the coalition’s other top priorities going into the final week of the session:
— Increasing the minimum wage: Passed the House on Feb. 12, awaiting Senate Finance Committee action.
— Increasing kids’ physical activity during school: Passed the Senate on Feb. 25; awaiting House Health and Human Resources Committee and House Education Committee action.
— Creating a Future Fund: Passed the Senate on Feb. 21; awaiting House Judiciary Committee and House Finance Committee action.
— Require prescription for pseudoephedrine, which is used to make methamphetamine: Passed the Senate on Feb. 18; awaiting House Judiciary Committee action.
Here’s the status of other coalition agenda items:
— Help municipalities re-develop vacant and dilapidated properties: Passed the Senate Feb. 25; awaiting House Judiciary Committee action.
— Ban the use of food-stamp benefits to buy sugary drinks: Died in the Senate Health Committee.
— Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: Passed the House on Feb. 5; awaiting Senate Labor Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee action.
— Increase the tobacco tax: Died in the House Health and Human Resources Committee.