AL GORE: Proposes Funding Boost for Services for the Disabled
Vice President Al Gore announced a $2.7 billion proposal designed to bolster programs for disabled citizens by improving home care initiatives and workplace access, the AP/Arizona Republic reports. Speaking to 800 activists at the National Council on Independent Living meeting on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Gore said, "There are millions of Americans who are held back, not because they have a disability, but because that disability is misunderstood. They are not recognized for the abilities they have." Projecting a new commitment to the 54 million disabled Americans, 75% of whom are unemployed or underemployed, Gore's 10-year plan would create a "Fund for Independence" to maximize resources for the development of home- and community-based services to facilitate entry to the workplace; increase independent living program funding from $40 million to $75 million; promote a $1,000 tax credit for expenses incurred during work re-entry; double the $35 million currently spent on research into new assistive technologies; spend $50 million to increase anti-discrimination law enforcement; and provide state incentives for the expansion of Medicaid coverage for home care expenses. These proposals add to Gore's previously announced plans to increase special education funding and expand Medicaid coverage for prescription drugs (7/26).
In addition to announcing his proposals, Gore also told the assembled crowd that his Republican rival, Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R), would undermine federal protections for the disabled by appointing "right-wing ideologues" to the Supreme Court. "Ask yourself whether you would like to see three or four more Antonin Scalias and Clarence Thomases on the Court. Ask yourselves what the future of the ADA would be at the hands of such a court. I know that my opponent speaks of a commitment to people with disabilities ... But let's face it: If we allow anyone to pack the court with right-wing ideologues, all of our advances in civil rights and equal rights could be ruled away," Gore said. Bush spokesperson Dan Bartlett denied that the Republican candidate would hinder the rights of the disabled, commenting that "Bush has said all along that he will appoint justices with a strong judicial temperament and will not legislate from the bench. Gov. Bush is a strong supporter of the ADA, has outlined several initiatives to improve the disability act and has worked hard in Texas to improve access for the disabled." Despite these statements, National Council of Independent Living President Paul Spooner admitted, "The difference is like night and day to me. George Bush will put us back in the darkness" (Finnegan, Los Angeles Times, 7/26). Michael Auberger, national organizer and co-founder of American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today, also says in a Salon.com article that Bush's disability record has not be optimal. "[Bush] opposed the Olmstead decision, which was a Supreme Court decision that pretty much says that people with disabilities have a right to live in the community and use Medicaid dollars and have that choice," he said. In February 1999, 15 picketers protesting the court decision, most of whom were in wheelchairs, were arrested for trespassing outside the gates of the Texas governor's mansion (Tapper, 6/30).