Have you been following what is happening at the capitol? Governor Pawlenty and both parties in the legislature seem to be indicating that we need significant new investments in education, health care, and, topping the list, transportation. Somewhere in the mix are property tax reduction and a tax credit for caregivers. But the priorities and the budget available seem to be a little out of whack. Anne Henry said it to me first: “Unless there is some new revenue, there won’t be enough in the health and human services, education and transportation budget to fund any of the important initiatives for persons with disabilities in this session.”
Senator Linda Berglin (DFL-Minneapolis) also recognized early on that there was not going to be enough revenue to make up for the last four years of cuts in health and human services. Berglin, chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Budget division, focused on funding some truly needed programs in order to start rebuilding. Some of her committee’s priorities (not that we know any outcomes until the final vote) are: eliminating pharmacy co-pays, service provider cost-of-living adjustments and—one item that has bipartisan support—the mental health initiative. Representative Thomas Huntley’s (DFL-Duluth) House Omnibus Health and Human Services bill also funds important changes such as increasing the MA income and asset standard, covering the Medicare Part D co-pays for those on MA, provider cost-of-living increases and initiating a new self-directed option for PCA services.
And, please, don’t get me wrong; there are other worthy programs out there that I truly believe need funding. I’m sure many of you have your own priority list of funding needs. But we do have to consider fiscal responsibility. If we are going to make progress on any of the issues above, we need to raise taxes in a fair way. The “budget surplus” that was all the talk earlier in the session was really just one-time money left over from unspent appropriations funds and money to covering inflation such as increase fuel costs. It was not, as many had claimed, a sudden influx of extra tax revenues due to a booming economy.
I want to thank all of you that have kept us updated on legislative issues (i.e., all the MN-CCD member organizations). I sure have not been able to be at the capitol this year nearly as much as I would like. That’s something I regret because (believe it or not) I do like all the political action.
We have some changes coming in our “Directory of Organizations.” If your organization is not listed in our directory this issue, please contact us and for a very small fee we will include you in our four-times-a-year print directory, and on the Web site we will give you space to describe your organization. Starting in July the directory will have a completely new look—with advertisement space available. So don’t hesitate; put you’re advertisement first in Access Press’s new “Directory of Organizations.”
We still have opportunities this year for organizations to sponsor a full issue of Access Press. Help ensure that Access Press is able to continue to be your avenue to disseminate information that the disability community needs.
This month we will begin taking nominations for the 2007 Charlie Smith Award, which will be presented at our banquet on November 2, 2007. So save the first Friday evening in November to come and hang out with your friends in the disability community—and help us applaud the award winner that best exemplifies the principles and spirit of the founder of Access Press, Charlie Smith! The nomination forms are available online at our Web site.
We have been putting a little snippet of the past—or what we call “history notes”—in the paper each month. If there’s a piece of history that your organization would like us to highlight, give us a call.