JRLC e-Xpress July 20
Minnesota's collective nightmare is over. The legislature adjourned its special session this morning at 3:45 a.m. after quickly passing 12 bills and, now, Governor Dayton will sign the batch into law which will release state appropriations as early as tomorrow and Friday. The breakdown is over.
There are many more details to be parsed out, and the litany of budget cuts is long, but given the budget parameters determined by the Governor, the Speaker, and the Majority Leader its fair to say that vulnerable people were protected--but not without a lot of sacrifice.
First the good news:
- No safety net cuts to General Assistance and MFIP, which is a huge success and is a direct result of all the lobbying we've been doing since January. There are some small eligibility changes to GA, but the programs are intact and grants to clients are basically funded at forecasted levels.
- Eligibility for Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare is mostly preserved. Clearly the heath care system will creak and strain under the pressure of reimbursement rate cuts and some pieces of the reform will require many sacrifices, but the corner seems to have turned away from using an ax for surgery on the system.
And now for the bad:
- Child care programs were hit hard, both in terms of funding child care services and grant programs to ensure programs. The loss is over $800 million to child care providers statewide.
- There was some strange legislating on the EBT cards (Electronic Benefit Transfer). The new law means that the food portion and the cash portion of public assistance grants will be split into two separate cards (costing more money to manage) so the state can restrict purchases of alcohol, tobacco, and tattoos with state-funded dollars.
- The MFIP consolidated fund was reduced by $20 million over the biennium, greatly reducing what case management services counties will be able to offer.
- Also, the Community and Child Services Act which funds county-based services to prevent or address neglect and abuse was reduced by $22 million
The revenue that allows much pain to be averted comes from borrowing, and this is bad public finance. We did not prevail on getting a progressive source of revenue into the Health and Human Services bill, but JRLC helped shape the debate about the human dignity and human needs of people on the margins of our community.