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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Issue of the Week: It's Not About Money

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If Republicans had stuck to their campaign promises, we'd be looking at a very different state budget—not to mention different laws—right now.

But, instead, they are using their power to craft punitive policies that target their political enemies and make the state's fiscal situation even worse.

Their latest attack is on Planned Parenthood and taxpayer-subsidized family planning services. Despite objective, nonpartisan data showing that for every dollar invested in family planning for low-income women the state saves $4 in Medicaid spending, Republicans on the powerful Joint Finance Committee (JFC) voted to end state support for Planned Parenthood and decrease funds for other providers.

In addition, the committee—co-chaired by a former Planned Parenthood board member turned Scott Walker rubber-stamp, state Sen. Alberta Darling—voted to end state support for family planning services for men and to require teens who want birth control to get permission from their parents.

These changes will jeopardize up to $10 million of federal funding, further exacerbating the state's budget problems.

It makes no sense, economically.

And it doesn't make any sense from a public policy standpoint, either.

Why are we making it more difficult for low-income women to prevent unintended pregnancies?

Why are we making it more difficult for low-income men to get cancer screenings and sexually transmitted infection testing?

Why are we putting more obstacles in the way of responsible teens who want to use birth control?

Why? Because Republicans are using the budget to push policies that are too toxic for up-and-down votes on individual bills that require public hearings. They're wrapping up all of their unpopular ideas into the budget—including, potentially, the allegedly nonfiscal collective bargaining bill—and then forcing a vote on the entire package.

That the budget provision would ultimately weaken Planned Parenthood—whose political arm typically endorses pro-choice candidates, which often happen to be Democrats, since pro-choice Republicans are extinct—is the ultimate goal. Just as the collective bargaining bill had nothing to do with the state's finances and the $6 million Voter ID bill that disproportionately affects seniors, students and low-income citizens has nothing to do with election integrity, cutting funds for Planned Parenthood is a political act meant to mute Republican foes during the campaign season. Unfortunately, those who rely on the agency's services will pay the price for Republicans' cruelty.

Heroes of the Week

Running Rebels Volunteers

The Running Rebels Community Organization, founded in 1980 by Victor Barnett, works with at-risk youths to provide positive alternatives to gangs and substance abuse. Headquartered at 1300A W. Fond du Lac Ave., Running Rebels offers educational, athletic, artistic and vocational programs.

In addition to improving the lives of participants, the nonprofit also takes a proactive role in the community, organizing many service-oriented events each year. Volunteers are crucial to the group's continuing success. Readers who wish to help as academic mentors or work with youth in the many outdoors programs, among other opportunities, are encouraged to call 414-264-8222 or visit www.runningrebels.org.