The AARP of Idaho (the group formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons), is calling on the governor and the Idaho Legislature to not make stark cuts to services, particularly at the Department of Health and Welfare and the Commission on Aging.
"AARP is warning legislators and the Governor of the dire effects of the proposed cuts and is sending them a simple message: Don’t balance the budget on the backs of the state’s most vulnerable residents," the group's press release said.
The group has set up a budget hot line to connect older Idahoans to their legislators: 1-800-232-0581. Just enter your zip code and they'll connect you to your delegation. (It's not exact—some zip codes span legislative districts.)
AARP has 180,000 members in Idaho, according to spokesman Dave Irwin. That's more than half of the over 50 population of the state, a group that is nearly all registered to vote and 75 percent of whom vote in every election.
Surely the Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter and the Legislature—most of which fits the same demographic—is aware of that voting block. In fact, the Commission on the Aging is one of the few agencies spared Otter's budget euthanasia plan—seven other commissions are being completely phased out under Otter's plan.
Still, AARP is not pleased with Otter's 8 percent cuts to Aging. Not that they have any suggestions for funding those services: “I’m not a legislator. They’ve been elected to office to figure out just that it’s our job as an advocacy organization to understand just what the ramifications of those cuts are going to be,” Irwin said.
The group is also irritated by the Legislature's attempts to oppose national health reform efforts before those efforts have even produced anything concrete. Irwin points out that both the House and Senate versions of the health-care bill provide more funds for Medicaid, which three days of hearings before the state budget committee have just established are greatly needed.
"We’re saying no when our most vulnerable population needs us to say yes," Irwin told citydesk.