Catholic organizations react to governor’s budget proposal

| January 29, 2015 | 0 Comments

CapitolTwo Catholic entities paying close attention to the state legislature see elements in Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget proposal that could aid their missions in promoting just and dignified living and working conditions for Minnesotans.

Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and the Minnesota Catholic Conference are hopeful about the potential boosts in education, and child care and early childhood programs.

Catholic Charities, which operates the Northside Child Development Center in North Minneapolis, has seen firsthand the importance of investing in programs that help people get out of poverty.

“We know that programs like the Child Care Assistance Program and the MinneMinds early childhood scholarship are valuable to low-income families who are working hard to achieve self sufficiency and create more opportunity for the next generation,” said Bev Turner, interim director of advocacy for Catholic Charities.

“Without child care,” she continued, “parents can’t work, further their education or get job training. We also know that children who grow up in poverty and experience homelessness are more likely to struggle with these issues as adults. There is a lot of great energy around these issues at the Capitol this year, and we’re grateful Gov. Dayton has made these investments a key priority in his budget proposal.”

According to the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Church, state government budgets are moral documents and should reflect spending priorities rooted in a concern for the well-being of families, the poor and vulnerable, and the common good, all while exercising fiscal responsibility and not burdening taxpayers unnecessarily. As such, it doesn’t take a position on the overall state budget. Rather, it speaks “to the relevant Catholic social teachings for crafting a budget, as well as to particular spending decisions regarding key programs that impact those in need,” explained Jason Adkins, MCC’s executive director.

Adkins noted that revenue increases, spending cuts and reforming how programs are delivered might guide public officials in crafting a budget that fosters justice and dignity in communities.

“On initial review, there are some positive features in Gov. Dayton’s budget, such as expanding the child care tax credit, as well as some omissions related to affordable housing and human services,” Adkins said. “Though the governor’s budget rightly emphasizes education, funding increases alone have yet to meaningfully improve the quality of education in Minnesota overall, or close the achievement gap.”

Adkins said the MCC believes that education scholarship tax credits and savings accounts for children with disabilities could make a greater impact.

“It is ultimately up to citizens and policy advocates to work with and share their concerns with legislators if Minnesota is to achieve a state budget rooted foremost in a concern for justice and dignity,” he said. MCC’s Catholic Advocacy Network helps people stay informed about the issues and suggests ways to become involved.

Also of note

Support for housing stability

Because Catholic Charities provides emergency shelter and permanent housing for more than 1,200 people on any given night, it advocates for investments to expand the affordability and availability of safe, stable housing for Minnesotans as a member of the Homes for All coalition.

Gov. Dayton’s proposal includes two housing programs specifically for adults with serious mental illness — Housing with Supports for Adults with Serious Mental Illness, and Bridges.

“We’ll be working with a broad, statewide coalition to encourage the legislature to build on the governor’s proposal and do more to ensure there are homes for all Minnesotans,” Turner said.

Transportation

The governor’s budget proposal also includes investments in transit and transportation, which Turner said will be a key issue this legislative session.

“In our work at Catholic Charities, we see how critical it is for families to have access to transportation — to get and keep a job, to bring their kids to school and daycare, to keep medical appointments and support their families,” Turner said, adding that access to transit and transportation can be the difference between stability or remaining in a crisis situation.

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