Parents of the profoundly disabled are profoundly troubled. Beginning April 1, Medicaid will cover a total of 75 occupational, physical and speech therapy sessions annually. The health insurance program for the poor and disabled now covers a combined 225 of those therapies a year.
The state Medicaid agency in recent months has slashed dozens of programs, including those that aid diabetics, the disabled and the dying. But the budget ax has spared payments to doctors, dentists and other providers.
Charleston resident Emerson Read's crusade against property taxes resulted in sweeping changes in South Carolina, and prompted Gov. Mark Sanford to present him with the state's highest civilian honor, the Order of the Palmetto. In Charleston, where owners of the city's most valuable properties watched their property tax bills drop by thousands of dollars in 2007, Read was given a humanitarian award by The French Society.
The wholesale reductions in public services that South Carolina is suffering through would have seemed unfathomable before this recession, but years of additional budget cuts are now likely. Unless significant additional revenue materializes, through policy changes or a surprising economic recovery, the state will be unable to maintain even the much-reduced level of services that followed roughly $1 billion in budget cuts.
Economic storm clouds already were forming over the nation in the early months of 2007, when South Carolina's Legislature approved the largest tax cut in state history. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned that February that the nation could slip into recession by year's end; but in South Carolina, state spending was rising substantially, and revenues were rising even faster.