Stop the presses. Republican with heart possibly located.
That would be state Rep. Donna Hutchinson of Bella Vista, a tireless legislator on topics ranging from highway funding to (here) needs of troubled kids.
She called me because she was fired up by a story in this morning's paper. (sub. reqd.) She'd been to see Gov. Mike Beebe earlier about using a dwindling holdover of the legislature's capital improvement money to shore up foster care and youth detention center budgets, which were reduced along with everything else by recent state budget cuts.
No can do, Beebe, or his representative, was said to have told Hutchinson. He couldn't spend one-time money on those ongoing programs.
So, Hutchinson wants to know, how come the governor was quoted in the paper this morning as urging county officials to lobby legislators to redirect their money to paying down debt to counties for holding state prisoners. That's use of one-time money for an ongoing expense, Hutchinson figures.
"Why is it OK to give one-time money to adults but not children?" she asked. "It's because they don't vote, they have no lobbyists. That's how they ended up in the mess they find themselves in. But they are still citizens of the state."
Hutchinson has spent time in the youth centers. She urged others to take a look. "They would be embarrassed by what they call school there. Kids are in ragged clothes. Some didn't have coats. It was something from a Charles Dickens novel. If we don't beat the drum, nobody's going to hear about these children."
Consider the drum beaten a bit, Rep. Hutchinson. Thanks for calling. Back to you governor. Are county officials, who Hutchinson notes have taxing means to cover shortfalls, more important than troubled kids who depend on the state's mercy?
UPDATE: The governor's office said there was a big increase in social worker hiring last year, so improvements have been made in the foster care program. The cuts this year have been more about slowing hiring, not any cutbacks in existing work of the Division of Children and Family Services. A spokesman for Beebe still insists that using capital money for salaries of new workers is a bad move if the money may not be present in the future to pay new workers.