President-elect Barack Obama committed himself to helping state governments deal with economic problems and budget shortfalls in a meeting in Philadelphia on Dec. 2. Assuming the new Obama administration can win support after taking office in January and start implementing its plans, this is good news for many who care about services delivered at the state level.
While this issue clearly goes beyond services for people with autism spectrum disorders, it will be important for advocates to watch how state-level budget discussions progress. Most state governments—41 out of 50 as of this week, The New York Times reported— are forecasting budget deficits this year.
In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick told WBUR radio in Boston that Obama and governors shared a strong consensus that a new stimulus package will focus on "job creation, to build roads and bridges, restore rail systems, install green technology, refurbish public buildings." Patrick added that governors told Obama states need help with rising demand for services like Medicaid, food stamps and unemployment benefits, which are rising as state revenues fall.
Update: WBUR posted the audio clip of the interview with Deval Patrick at my request. Here it is:
Those points are clear: new federal money for roads, bridges, buildings, new environmentally-friendly fixtures and technologies. Help for people hurt by the recession.
What's not clear so far is how operating budgets are faring at the state level, and at the level of cities and towns, where our kids go to school, for example, or other important services get delivered. Those are the decision-making processes that bear close scrutiny, and likely, some advocacy.
If you have information about goings-on in your state, please feel encouraged to post a comment below this post.
Below is a video of Obama's remarks at the governor's conference on Dec. 2 in Philadelphia, via Yahoo video.