As we go to press the state Legislature is still in session, but there has been a no action taken during the month of April. The leadership of the House and Senate has been arguing over how to split up the state record surplus of 1.8 billion-dollar. Just in the last week an agreement was reached where by the Senate, House and the governor will in each get $175 million to spend it anyway they want. Under this agreement the House is planning to spend the majority of their money on tax relief, the governor will reduce the license tabs for cars and the Senate is splitting their portion between education, tax relief and a very small amount for health and human services. Between 400 and 600 hundred million dollars will be returned to taxpayers in a rebate similar to last year. This year people with disabilities and seniors who didn’t file tax returns will also be included in the rebate. There is also a bill pending in this year’s legislative session which will give this same group of people the rebate they should have gotten last year. The remainder of the surplus will be held over for next year’s legislative session.
Although I do not agree with the whole idea of a rebate, if they’re going to give money back, it should go to everyone. Most of people I know would prefer that the state of Minnesota keep their rebates check (averaging $200) and use the money to fund programs like the personal care attendant, transit including Metro mobility, special education and more affordable housing to just name a few programs.
The legislature and the governor (with only a few exceptions) should all be ashamed of themselves for their behavior in the last month. The legislators started work in February holding committee meetings debating important issues. They listened to people with disabilities tell them how important it is to have qualified personal care attendants (PCA’s) and a 3 percent raise to attract these more qualified PCA’s. And, they heard people explain how expanding the senior drug program would mean that I can take the medication I need and still have money for dinner. Also, this year is raising the income standard for people who are on social security disability income. These are people are living on medical assistance, too and can only keep $464 each month. Under the proposed bill these people would get a $20 raise each month. Is this too much to ask for? In many these cases were talking about small changes that make a dramatic impact on people’s lives. Despite the overwhelming support and passage from both houses, these programs may not getting the funding that was promised.
Soon after this issue of the paper comes out the legislature session will end. I hope they will prove me wrong and fund programs in a meaningful way. Next month we will carry a complete wrap up of all the bills that impact in the lives of people with disabilities.
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On June 14th Advocating Changed Together (ACT) will premiere their new video “Disability Rap” at The Minnesota History Center (see page 9). The video is based on a rap song written and performed by Cheryl Wade, a disability advocate from Berkeley CA. It gives you the opportunity to see disability culture in the making and how far we have come in our fight for independence and the power we possess. Jerry Smith has done wonderful job putting this video together, using people with disabilities to tell this story; It’s moving, funny and a must see. Mark your calendars and reserve your tickets early.
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Max Sparber who joined Access Press in late January as my editorial assistant is leaving. He has found that his freelance writing is demanding more time then he expected and is going to follow that career path. Max will continue to contribute to Access Press in the future. I wish him well, and thanks for the time you were here.
Nathan Halvorson is replacing Max. Nathan is a recent graduate from St. Olaf College and also worked for Access to Employment before joining the paper. I hope you all welcome him.