Holcomb appears without a long-term plan to right DCS
INDIANAPOLIS – As FY2018 draws to a close, the Department of Child Services has already overspent its budget by $284 million, for a total of 145 percent of the Department’s General Fund appropriation. News that freshman governor Eric Holcomb would divert $25 million of the state’s $2 billion surplus is welcome, but a long-term strategy it is not.
In FY19, appropriators added a scant $50 million to the Department’s FY19 General Fund appropriation compared to FY18. Budget officials found another $324 million under the couch cushions to backfill additional budget holes. But patches and bailouts don’t make a long-term strategy. Holcomb’s administration previously handcuffed DCS leadership on funding requests to meet the crisis. Former Director Mary Beth Bonaventura hammered Holcomb for blocking her requests and for heavy-handed budget management she said all but ensured “children will die.” It also remains unclear whether the additional funds the administration diverted to DCS will make up the embattled agency’s new baseline appropriation in future budgets.
Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody criticized the governor’s whack-a-mole approach and lack of a clear long-term funding strategy.
“Under GOP leadership, we’ve pinballed from one crisis to another at the Department of Child Services with no plan and no vision,” said Zody. “Missing your budget projection by $284 million isn’t a rounding error, it’s wishful thinking and ignoring the scope and scale of the crisis. Does the governor have a long-term plan with benchmarks or is he just riding it out until the cameras and questions fade away? Vulnerable children deserve an answer.”