Access Press posed three questions to each candidate for governor of Minnesota. Below, we have compiled their responses for you. Their answers are printed as received only basic formatting was done by us. Each question is followed by each candidate’s response in alphabetical order by last name. Candidate Pawlenty used an alternate format, so his responses will be printed in their entirety at the end. We thank all the candidates for their participation.
Question 1: Please summarize your political efforts, to date, on behalf of the disability community.
Roger Moe, Democrat: As a legislator and as Senate Majority Leader, my public policy efforts have touched most public policy issues, including those issues promoted and supported by people with disabilities.
Health & Human Services: I was a Senate author of the Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD) program, which has allowed thousands of Minnesotans with disabilities to become employed without fear of losing needed health care through Medical Assistance. I have supported increases to COLAs and tuition waivers for health care workers. I supported expanding the Minnesota Prescription Drug Program to persons with disabilities on Medicare, patient protection measures, and the extension of the sunset for the disability council. I authored legislation in the early 1970s establishing what then was called the Minnesota Commission for the Handicapped. I have a long record of support for efforts promoting alternatives to institutionalization.
Housing: I have been a strong proponent for increased investments in affordable housing. My running mate, Julie Sabo, was author of the 2001 “visitability” amendment, which promotes integrating basic accessibility features into state-financed affordable housing units.
Transit & Transportation: I have a strong record supporting transportation and transit. I voted for Light Rail Transit and the North Star Commuter Rail project. I have supported funding for PCA transportation in all areas of the state especially in rural Minnesota where PCA’s must travel long distances.
Education: As a former teacher, I have worked throughout my public service career to provide adequate and stable funding for our public schools. The State Senate, under my leadership, has made significant efforts to close the special education funding gap.
Access: I’ve been a strong supporter of efforts to remove architectural barriers and improve accessibility in our public buildings. I’ve supported the Library Access Fund and I have supported efforts spearheaded by Wilderness Inquiry to improve accessibility in our state parks.
Tim Penny, Independent Party: I have always had a good working relationship with the disability community throughout my elected years. My youngest brother has had multiple disabilities since birth so many Penny family members have personal connections to the disability community.
In Congress, I supported the Americans with Disabilities Act. I was also actively involved in the creation of the Southeastern Minnesota Center for Independent Living. As many of your readers know, this center has been successful in providing housing, living support, and work support for many people with disabilities in the Rochester area.
Ken Pentel, Green Party: In my 16 years as an activist working on political, economic and environmental issues, I have never directly worked on issues that address the specific concerns of the disability community. Of course, I haven’t avoided working on such issues, but my work has heretofore led me down other political paths.
Question 2: What do you consider to be the issues of greatest importance, statewide, to the disability community and how would you rank their importance?
Moe: Affordable accessible housing, transit and transportation, adequately funded schools, access to affordable health care and prescription medications, and adequately compensated health care workers are certainly issues of importance to persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities, like all workers, need good jobs at good wages.
Penny: 1. Because of the current budget deficit, state lawmakers will be grappling with how to balance the budget. I believe we must have a balanced approach that solves the deficit through a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. Throughout this process, it is more important than ever that we ensure vital services to disabilities are maintained within the context of a balanced budget.
2. Another important issue is the availability of services that allow individuals to live independently. Services such as personal care attendant services are in high demand and are funded through a combination of state and federal funding. As Governor, I will make independent living options a priority and I will work with my former colleagues in Washington to ensure that we tap all federal opportunities.
Other important issues include:
3. Availability of public transit options throughout the state.
4. Medical assistance/Medicaid payment and reimbursement for services such as augmentative communication devices.
5. Full federal funding of special education.
Pentel: To me, the most important issue facing the disability community is Transportation. A lot of the complaints I hear are that people just have a hard time getting around. If elected governor, I would upgrade and improve Metro Mobility and public transportation in general. Livability issues would be second on my agenda. I would fight to pass laws that make it easier for the disabled to find fully accessible living spaces and would also make sure that personal care assistants are paid a living wage. Third, Full and Equal Employment opportunities; Fourth, Universal Health Care Coverage.
Question 3: What is your plan of action for addressing several of these top issues? We are interested in how key changes would be implemented, and when as well as how you will be overseeing them.
Moe: The economic challenges before us are serious enough that I believe state candidates who have signed a no-tax-increase pledge are being extremely disingenuous with the public, including people with disabilities. Minnesota is likely to be faced with a projected shortfall in the $2-$3 billion range. Spending cuts alone cannot compensate for these projected shortfalls. I want to keep all of our options available to balance the budget.
Education and economic opportunity for every Minnesotan will be my priority as Governor. I believe we must make every effort possible to protect advancements we have made to assist persons with disabilities. As Senate Majority Leader, I have met with individual members of the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. If elected governor, I pledge to meet with the MN CCD and use the power of the office to promote the concerns and proposals of this consortium.
Affordable housing units must be more readily available for persons with disabilities, and, at the first economic opportunity available, we must continue our efforts to expand income eligibility limits for the Prescription Drug Program and increase the income limits for the medically needy on Medical Assistance.
Penny: As Governor, I will make it a priority to work with you. I will ensure close collaboration with the disability communities through active listening at the grass-roots level. I will always be available and I will listen. I want all Minnesotans to feel closer and more in-tune with their government. My door will be open.
I will also work to put people in key decision-making positions that have a keen and personal understanding of people with disabilities.
Pentel: Implementation, of course, is the key to any vision. As governor, for me it would be a matter of making sure that I used the bully pulpit to bring my priorities to the general public. For any policy to work, it must have the support of the public. The governor must also be open and sensitive to the concerns of the constituencies that he or she serves. I also would make a point of connecting with the disability communities to seek guidance from them either on current policy or how to write new policy that would be consistent with our goals. Any vision that I have alone will be immeasurably enhanced from the input of the disability community. I also would make sure that all existing laws be enforced, especially those laws that work for the disabled but have been overlooked. Finally, I would put my proposals into the budget and ensure that they are fully funded and enforced.
Response from Tim Pawlenty (Republican)
Minnesotans with disabilities are an important part of our community. As House Majority Leader, I have worked to advance policies that help those with disabilities.
A key part of our system involves those who provide direct care services to the elderly and disabled. As House Majority Leader, I helped lead the charge by directing millions in new spending over the past four years to providers of home and community-based services, and to direct care providers such as personal care assistants, private duty nurses, and home care providers.
Following is a brief summary of some of these accomplishments:
Prescription Drugs: To help address the skyrocketing costs of medicines, the House successfully modified the Prescription Drug Program this year, allowing disabled persons to qualify at 120 percent of the Federal Poverty Guideline.
Working Incentives: Recognizing the dignity and fulfillment that comes from being a productive member of the workforce, a sliding fee program has been created that allows people with disabilities to work yet retain MA coverage. This program is known as the MA for Employed Persons with Disabilities Program.
Family Support Grants: To help families pay down debt incurred for home or vehicle modifications, $3.5 million has been allocated for family support grants.
Home Accessibility: In 2001, the Legislature took an important step in making homes more accessible to people with disabilities. Under the legislation, all new construction of single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes and multilevel townhouses that are financed by the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency must incorporate basic access requirements into their design and construction. These requirements include at least one no-step entrance, 32-inch doorways and at least one-half-bath on the ground level, to improve wheelchair access.
Community Services: The House made a significant commitment to move disabled people from institution-based to community-based services, which will allow for more healthcare options.
Rehabilitation Options: To provide MA coverage for the rehabilitation option to provide crisis services, medication and monitoring services, more than $6 million was allocated in the 2001 Legislative Session.
Private Duty Nursing/Personal Care Services: Legislation was passed in 2001 that expanded the circumstances under which private duty nursing and personal care services can be provided outside the home and that clarified and broadened the scope of personal care assistant services eligible for reimbursement.
Voting Rights: Legislation pushed by the House in 2001 will benefit blind and visually impaired voters greatly. Specifically, technology that was not previously allowed can now be utilized by sight-impaired individuals so they can vote in private.
The reforms enacted over the past few years are exciting steps in creating tools that will allow people with disabilities to live productive, independent lives in Minnesota. If elected governor, I will continue to be a vocal advocate for additional reforms.