Sunday, September 25, 2005

Another Nebraska Failure

by Kyle Michaelis
We all know what dangers the world holds for children, especially those trapped in poverty, neglected by their families, and forgotten by society. Does the Republican Party in Nebraska give a damn?

Read this report from the Omaha World-Herald on the ruling party's failure to help hard working families keep their heads above water:
Only one state did less than Nebraska to help low-income parents pay for child care, according to a new national report.

Nebraska cut off child care subsidies when parents' incomes reached 117 percent of the federal poverty level - $18,804 for a family of three. Missouri cut off subsidies at 111 percent of poverty.

All other states and the District of Columbia offered child care assistance to families with higher incomes, according to the study released this week by the National Women's Law Center....

Nebraska's comparative standing didn't surprise Rebecca Gould, an attorney with the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest.

The center filed an unsuccessful lawsuit challenging then-Gov. Mike Johanns' decision to reduce the income cutoff level from 185 percent of the poverty level. The action saved an estimated $4.5 million and helped the state close a major budget gap.

Gould said Nebraska's income cutoff level has forced parents to forgo pay raises or restrict their work hours so they can still qualify for child care help. Some have quit work and gone on welfare to survive.

"There's definitely more people that need child care than can get it," she said. "It puts people in a trap. The way we are setting the child care subsidy up now, we're setting people up to fail."

I hope Tom Osborne and Dave Heineman - in their race to promise the largest possible, vote-grabbing tax cuts no matter the peril to real people - will at least have the decency to fulfill the state's faltered obligations before testing the limits of irresponsbile governance (a la Mike Johanns).

This isn't to suggest some sensible relief of the working class tax burden isn't in order, but the people of Nebraska deserve better than to have the details decided by pandering politicians and the powerful business lobby. Real lives - in this instance, the futures of real children - are at stake.


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