Raising social workers' pay should be a priority even with a tight budget, legislators say

12/07/2011 05:05 PM

A bipartisan pair of legislators who oversee the budget and functions of the state’s health cabinet agreed this week that lawmakers should carve out money to raise pay of social workers and lighten their workload.

Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown, chairs the House budget panel for the Health and Family Services Cabinet. And Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, leads the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

Both of them told childrens’ advocates at Tuesday’s Louisville Step Up for Kids forum that social workers suffer under heavy case loads that spread them too thin and need to be better paid:

One area Gov. Steve Beshear had hoped to save money was in the Medicaid program, which costs $6 billion in state and federal money. The administration signed contracts with three managed care companies to handle health care needs of the 820,000 poor and disabled enrollees.

But Lee cautioned Beshear against using “imaginary dollars” as savings to balance the budget in other programs.

“I would be very, very opposed if those dollars leave the cabinet because we don’t really know whether or not we’ll have the type of savings from managed care because the jury’s still out on how effective managed care is going to be. And I don’t think we’re going to know that for at least a period of 12 months.”


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.