Editor's Column - July 2011

I hope by the time you read this the state government shutdown is over. As I’m writing this, though, I’m afraid that it won’t be settled. I don’t think the House and Senate leadership are able to make any guarantees on how their own caucuses will ultimately vote on any compromise. Gov. Mark Dayton will not call a special session unless he has a guarantee that the deals on the table are passable. There lies one of the dilemmas. Another dilemma, of course, is that GOP leadership is standing very strong against any revenue-increasing measures, while the governor is standing very strong against revenue-shifting or an all-cuts balanced budget. Both sides may be right on some points, but they both need to compromise, and so far only Dayton seems to be willing to compromise. Unfortunately, without any movements toward the middle, we all suffer the anxiety about what the budget may bring, while far too many state workers are suffering the consequences of no income.

Our personal care attendant (PCA) agencies have been getting cut approximately 2%, each year for the last two or three years. The legislature needs to understand that the alternative to providing this funding is to pay for institutions, nursing homes and emergency room visits, and all of these will increase costs far more than the 6% or 8% that they have cut out of this one service alone. The public hospitals have been underfunded for years as well.

The cost-shifting measures that were proposed in the 11th hour prior to the shutdown would be delaying the inevitable. Personally, I think Dayton was right in not accepting that proposal. We are on a road that we can’t stay on; we have to change directions. It’s true that whichever direction we turn it is going to be a difficult road, but we cannot stop funding services that are cost-effective. Holding back state funds to local schools will ultimately hurt our children’s education. Not passing bonding bills that will create jobs will continue to threaten the economic situation of our middle class. Abandoning our social contract for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all citizens, including the elderly, the disabled, the poor and weak is abandoning our Declaration of Independence. We need to keep declaring our need for independence, and make sure that legislators get the idea that it’s more important to protect the 567,000 Minnesotans with disabilities than the 7,700 Minnesotans with a million dollars coming in every year.

Paul Wellstone once said in U.S. Senate budget hearings, “The problem is that this budget—there is no investment. This budget doesn’t really represent, doesn’t advance the cause of these [school]children. If anything it is a retreat.” We can’t retreat on investments in our state’s ability to prosper and maintain a high standard of living for all our citizens. Investments can help us produce, while cuts can only further disable us. In another speech, Wellstone said, “We are not going to achieve our goals on a tin cup budget.” Is the goal of this budget to get people with disabilities back on the streets with tin cups?

On a completely different topic, nominations for this year’s Charlie Smith Award are due August 30. Right now in the summer of a difficult year, it seems like there’s not much to celebrate, but the Charlie Award dinner always offers a chance to be with and celebrate our amazing Minnesota disability community and to recognize someone who has been of outstanding service. Send us your nominations, because you probably know someone who deserves this honor. And reserve your tickets as soon as possible, because we are expecting a sellout crowd again.

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