Citizens urge lawmakers to restore proposed cuts

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Parents, police, and teachers urge state lawmakers to restore massive funding cuts.

Elizabeth Morales claims to be kind of shy, by nature. But when the topic is her son's battle with autism, she gets all the strength in the world.

"I've been fighting for 20 years, and I'll still fight, till the...the day I die," Morales said.

Elizabeth and other parents who got in line at 4:00 a.m., pleaded with state lawmakers to restore millions in funding for those with intellectual disabilities.
"This day is so important, because I can say that I had the opportunity to speak up for not just my son, but for people with disabilities," one speaker said.

An emotional hearing took several turns, when speakers brought up topics, like education.

"The cuts often mean fewer teachers, larger classes, fewer electives, higher teacher turnover, and a far less right learning environment," said Kitty Boitnott of the Virginia Education Association.

Law enforcement agencies also gave scenarios under which the proposed cuts will lead to layoffs.

"With layoffs, that means security concerns, security concerns because we operate the second largest jail within the Commonwealth of Virginia," said Col. Walter Allmon with the Richmond City Sheriff's Office.

By far, the big topic though was developmental disabilities. Thelma Durgin isn't sure what lawmakers will do. But she wasn't about to let this day go, without a fight.

"I hope that all the services that are entitled to the mentally challenged and mentally disabled, that they will get those services, and not be pushed aside," Durgin said.

The cuts will be taken into consideration beginning this Wednesday, when the General Assembly reconvenes in Richmond. Lawmakers will start to make adjustments to Governor Tim Kaine's budget proposal. But with a $4 billion gap, even the most optimistic people know that some programs will have to go.

(c) 2010. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.