Did Sarah Cut Catholics?

Since Gov. Sarah Palin has arrived on the scene, claims have proliferated that she engaged in draconian budget cuts aimed at needy and vulnerable people.

Case in point: Numerous bloggers have claimed that Palin cut funds to Catholic charities. The idea made at least one mainstream source, as well. In a Sept. 11 Bloomberg News op-ed, Margaret Carlson wrote: “Palin, who said parents of special-needs children would have an advocate in the White House, cut funds for the Special Olympics, Catholic Charities and Covenant House. It would be good to know what she favors that parents need.”

I have previously examined the Special Olympics and Covenant House claims and found them to be false. The Catholic Charities claim is a similar kind of accusation, but a bit more complex.

First, I cannot find a line item or listing for Catholic Charities in the fiscal year 2008 or 2009 Alaska budgets. In the 2008 budget (July 1, 2007-June 30, 2008), however, Catholic Community Services was allocated funding for several projects.

By my calculations, the Alaska Legislature proposed $582,925 in four capital projects, and the Palin administration left $62,925 intact. According to the Palin administration’s rationale for vetoes, the $20,000 for the freezer would have been duplicate funding (apparently another source was found), and the $500,000 would have created “new facilities and programs.” Wilda Laughlin, spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services told me that most requests for new facilities were not funded, with the priority given to refurbish existing infrastructure (e.g., the Juneau Adult Day Center parking lot).

Now look at the 2009 funding for Catholic Community Services:

The Angoon folks still didn’t get their freezer and fridge. But the Juneau branch received $50,000 for hospice care, and the Fairbanks branch received $150,000 that they did not have before. Again, the charge regarding a cut relates to a reduced increase — and not a cut. As a legislator, it is relatively easy to ask for money for a constituent’s project knowing that the executive branch must balance the budget. In summary, the Legislature proposed $370,000 in three line items, with the final budget allocating $200,000 to the Catholic charitable organizations.

The Catholic organizations received almost six times as much funding in 2009 as in 2008. I do not see how this can be considered a cut.

In fact, the director of Catholic Community Services was happy to get the funding, according to a May 23, 2008 article in the Fairbanks News-Miner: “Palin also halved funding for counseling and adoption services at Catholic Community Resources. But Camille Connelly-Terhune, the group’s executive director, said the group was ‘thrilled’ with the $150,000 it did get. ‘It gives us the option to continue our services,’ she said.”

If Ms. Connelly-Terhune is happy, then why aren’t Palin’s detractors happy? Ms. Connelly-Terhune knows a raise when she sees one.

Warren Throckmorton, Ph.D. is

an associate professor of psychology

and fellow for psychology and public policy

at the Center for Vision and Values

at Grove City College.