Legislative Commission Collects Testimony Statewide to Build Plan
In 2006 the Minnesota Legislature created the Legislative Commission to End Poverty in Minnesota by 2020. The committee, made up of nine members from the Senate and nine members from the House of Representatives, and co-chaired by Rep. Carlos Mariani and Senator John Marty, is responsible for developing guidelines and preparing recommendations on how to end poverty in Minnesota by the year 2020.
The commission has met three times over the summer, taking two days to hear testimony from various government agencies, nonprofit organizations and citizens on the issue of poverty and the plight of the impoverished.
On August 2, 2007, Tom Gillaspy and Tom Stinson, Minnesota’s state demographer and state economist, respectively, provided expert testimony describing how poverty is affecting Minnesotans today. While Minnesota’s poverty rate of 9.2% is among the lowest in the country, changing demographics may bring already vulnerable populations deeper into poverty. Individuals over the age of 75 experience some of the highest rates of poverty. As baby boomers age, the population over age 65 will more than double by 2035. This demographic shift could lead to a greater number and percentage of people living in poverty if high poverty rates for the elderly continue.
Not surprising to those in the disability community is the fact that 38% of poor Minnesotans have a disability and that 19% of Minnesotans with a disability live in poverty. Still, these poverty statistics under-represent people with disabilities; individuals living in group homes or institutions, many of whom have disabilities, are not counted.
On Sept. 5, 2007, Joan Willshire, Executive Director of the Minnesota State Council on Disability, gave compelling testimony before the commission on the factors that not only lead people with disabilities into poverty but those that keep them there.
To engage Minnesotans statewide and to gain a greater understanding of how poverty is affecting different areas, the commissioners will continue to engage in local dialogues around the state (see box below).
The commission will report its recommendations to the legislature by December 15, 2008. For more information on the commission or the upcoming meetings, contact director Gregory Gray at 651-296-6397