MCC encouraged by elements of revised state budget plan

| March 18, 2015 | 0 Comments

state.capitol2014Funding for programs that address the urgent needs of Minnesota’s poor and low-income workers are among the items in Gov. Mark Dayton’s supplemental budget plan, and many are just what the state’s Catholic leaders have been advocating for.

Dayton released his revised budget March 17, proposing that an additional $865 million be added to his initial $42 billion plan released in January. The proposal is now before the Legislature for approval.

“We’re very encouraged by the governor’s supplemental budget proposals,” said Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the voice of the state’s bishops on public policy matters.

“Many of the items Gov. Dayton is proposing are those that the Catholic bishops called for when they met with him recently.”

Catholic bishops from the state’s six dioceses met with the governor and members of the Legislature March 5.

Among the items Adkins highlighted as especially encouraging in the revised budget are:

  • A $100 per month increase in state assistance to working families and people living in poverty, which, frozen at $532 per month, has not be increased since 1986. According to Dayton’s office, the increase would positively impact an estimated 29,000 adults and 70,000 children across the state.
  • Expansion of the working-family tax credit. “For low-income workers, this is essentially a subsidy so that they will retain more of their wages,” Adkins explained.
  • Funding to provide emergency shelters, transitional housing and drop-in centers for homeless youth. Adkins pointed out that on any given night 2,500 young people are homeless in Minnesota.
  • “Safe harbor” funding for an anti-human trafficking program that treats those under age 18 who are mired in sexual exploitation not as criminals, but as victims.
  • Continuation of the state tax credit for non-tuition education items such as textbooks, tutoring, transportation, computers and other educational materials.
  • Additional funding for nursing homes, which is particularly important for the state’s rural areas. The money would help nursing homes increase employee salaries and retain qualified workers.

Adkins said the MCC staff is seeing a lot of overlap in areas the legislative leaders of both parties find worthy of funding, and while there is room for debate about details and amounts, he is optimistic at this point in the legislative session.

“Budgets are moral documents,” he said, “and much like a family budget, the state’s budget should reflect the priorities and principles of the people of the state.”

Funding for programs that assist those with the most urgent needs is consistent with Catholic teaching that stresses a preferential option for the poor, Adkins added.

Other items

Two bills that the Catholic Advocacy Network (an initiative of the MCC) backs are so far on track, passing through committees and getting hearings, Adkins said.

They are HF369/SF 462, which provides information for expectant parents upon receiving a diagnosis of Trisomy 13, 18 or 21 (Down syndrome), and SF 348/HF 437, which would establish a legislative commission to study the issue of surrogate births.

MCC is also part of a coalition of groups pressing to restore the voting rights of convicted felons once they are released from jail, rather than waiting until they’re off probation, which can be years after they have served their time, Adkins said.

To follow bills during the legislative session via the bill-tracker, register with the Catholic Advocacy Network.

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