Rhode Island at a crossroads

This year’s budget could signal a major shift in the state’s underlying principles
By BRIAN C. JONES  |  April 25, 2007
INSIDE_ROCK

Among the hundred young people at a recent State House rally was a 17-year-old high school student, who could find himself in one of two places — either in college or homeless — a year from now.
 
The young man, a senior at Providence’s Central High School and a resident of a group home in the city, was part of an well-organized demonstration imploring the General Assembly to continue supporting children in state care after they turn 18.
 
Currently the age cutoff is 21. However, Governor Donald L. Carcieri has proposed dropping the limit to 18, which means that, starting this summer, 330 or more young adults could lose health-care, education, and housing subsidies.
 
For the aforementioned teenager, whose name isn’t used here because of his age, the proposed changes mean his hopes of going to the University of Rhode Island are now uncertain.
 
More important, he told me, he has no idea where he’ll be living as of November 23 — his next birthday. He has no family to go to; the Depart¬ment of Children, Youth and Families removed him from his father’s household several years ago when a school counselor learned he was being beaten, and the boy had bruises to prove it.
 
The Carcieri administration doesn’t dispute that the current program is helping young adults. But cutting the cord early, along with some other DCYF changes, means saving $17 million, which will help reduce a grave state deficit of about $250 million. As the administration put it in explaining a range of social service cuts in the governor’s 2008 budget, which takes effect in July, “It is clear that the state cannot sustain these programs as currently delivered.”
 
On the surface, this is springtime as usual at the State House.
 
Almost every year, Rhode Island governors propose changes in programs, and those affected turn out in droves to fight the cuts, thereby lifting the veil on just how vital state services are to flesh-and-blood human beings.

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  Topics: News Features , U.S. Government, U.S. State Government, Darrell West,  More more >
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