There are 10 Child Support
employees for each drug enforcement officer in the U.S. today.
AG seeks funds, says 2/3 of staff faces layoffs
12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, August 26, 2006
AUSTIN – Federal budget cuts could cripple Texas' efforts to collect child support payments, forcing the state to lay off at least 1,750 employees.
Attorney General Greg Abbott informed legislative leaders Friday that if his office doesn't get more state funds next year, its child support division will be forced to lay off two-thirds of its employees.
"Over half our offices serving families across the state could close," he said.
Mr. Abbott's aides said child support collections would plunge by at least $2 billion, from $9 billion this year.
"That is money that will not go to families," said Janece Rolfe, spokeswoman for the child support division, which has slightly more than 2,700 employees.
The federal cuts were part of a deficit-reduction bill signed into law by President Bush last winter.
The child support unit would lay off an additional 87 employees under the budget request Mr. Abbott gave state leaders Friday. That cut is in response to an order by Gov. Rick Perry and legislative leaders that agencies outline how they would trim 10 percent from their current budgets in the next two-year budget cycle.
Mr. Abbott, a Republican, vowed to work closely with the Legislature's leaders, who are also Republicans, to soften the blows.
But his plea for more than $40 million a year of additional state money for child support comes as demands on the next state budget are mounting.
Already, many lawmakers and officials question whether new business and cigarette taxes approved in a special session last spring will be enough to pay for property tax cuts and educational improvements also enacted. On Thursday, advocates of the state park system asked for $85 million more a year in state funds. Champions of social programs have yet to weigh in.
Mr. Abbott called child support a "lifeline" to 900,000 Texas families and warned of the "dire consequences cuts of this magnitude will bring."
The number of Texas children born to single mothers increased 48 percent between 2000 and 2005, according to his budget request. It said the child support division "provides a reliable source of income for children, ensuring that medical care, dental care and other basic needs are met."
Among the federal cuts, the biggest will prevent Texas from using a $40 million annual bonus from the federal government for good performance to generate additional federal matching funds. Ms. Rolfe said the match money can still be obtained, but Texas will have to use state funds.
Over the next two years, the loss of federal funds and the possible state cut together would reduce the division's funding by about $240 million, or 46 percent.
"Sucks, doesn't it?" said Lynda Milot Benson of Dallas, president and founder of the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support.
Ms. Benson, who has spent 21 years pushing for stronger child support collection efforts, called this the biggest funding crisis she has seen.
Politicians often rail against "deadbeat dads" and advocate personal responsibility, she said, but "there's no follow up for all of their talk."
Ms. Benson said preventing layoffs of child support collectors will be difficult.
"The state Legislature has not been receptive to funding children's efforts, so I'm worried that they won't," she said. "The children can't speak for themselves."
Other possible cuts
Friday was the deadline for agency chiefs to suggest how they would cut their budgets by 10 percent.
A spokeswoman for the governor says cuts may not happen but were demanded for planning purposes. Advocates of more spending on education and social services say the request places agency leaders on the defensive and diverts attention from the state's needs.
Mr. Perry's office did not submit its own list of cuts during business hours Friday. Spokeswoman Kathy Walt said the governor's aides were rushing to comply with a midnight deadline set by the Legislative Budget Board, a group of 10 lawmakers who oversee preparation of the budget.
Among possible cuts that were floated in other agencies:
Pick your paper - http://news.google.com/news?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLG,GGLG:2005-35,GGLG:en&tab=wn&ncl=http://www.kristv.com/Global/story.asp%3FS%3D5327835%26nav%3DBsmh&hl=en - and let your opinion be known. This is what I wrote To firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
I would like to think our legislators have come to their senses when I read "Big cuts threaten child support." But I must be careful when attributing logic and compassion to budget considerations. I know the government feels compelled to finance it's various wars.
The Child Support Industry likes to pretend their work is in the best interest of the child. Actually they are a self-perpetuating bureaucracy that uses children to justify their own budget. And the more children that are removed from decent loving fathers, the better for them.
The Attorney General would have the public believe they are in the child support enforcement business so single moms can stay off welfare. I say the AG is the biggest Welfare Recipient of them all. The budget for the AG is larger than that of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
Way more than half the AG's budget is for keeping track of child support collections and disbursements. How can politicians preach the values of family when they have so much at stake in the destruction of family?
The ruling party believes "Marriage Protection" is the way to strengthen matrimony. I believe results can be better achieved by weakening the incentive to divorce. Women, the primary recipients of child support, are responsible for filing for divorce much more often than men. Is there a connection here?
Why is it that primary custody is given to one parent in most all divorces, regardless if both parents are fit? Why is it that child support is ordered in most all custody decisions, regardless if both parents earn an equitable amount?
Could it be because the AG gets a handout from Washington for every child support order? Could it be because the AG gets a bigger handout from Washington for a bigger child support order?
The winner-take-all system of custody courts usually means one parent wins the right to collect child support and one parent loses routine contact with the kids. But there is another loser; the kids. They lose a loving relationship with one parent, usually their father, in almost every court order.
So when I read that "Big cuts threaten child support," I cheer. Because I believe that children should spend an equal amount of time with both parents. I believe parents should support their child during the time the child is with them. I believe children need both parents and they thrive with equal access to both parents.
And I believe the government needs to get out of the Child Support Industry. Laying off 1,750 employees is a good start.
Don Mathis, firstname.lastname@example.org
Big cuts threaten child support