About 40 Minnesota residents showed up for what DFL State Representative Alice Hausman referred to as “the first capitol open house” of the year on June 9. Within the grand House Chamber, formalities were laid aside as community leaders and local residents engaged in a round table discussion while sitting at vacant desks of legislators. They told Rep. Alice Hausman, Rep. John Lesch, and Sen. Mary Jo McGuire of their concerns about how the Republican budget plan would impact their lives.
If the budget disagreements between the majority GOP legislature and DFL Governor Mark Dayton are not resolved by June 30, Minnesotans will face the a government shutdown on July 1. Gaining momentum from people voicing their concerns, the discussion ranged from tax disparities to educational funding, healthcare access, and shelter for the homeless.
A road engineer said he is fortunate that in the early 80s there were state-funded educational programs that afforded him the opportunity to gain the education and skills he needed to advance from a job with a salary that barely provided him enough income to pay his rent and buy groceries. Today, working as a road engineer job for the State of Minnesota, he is able to live a comfortable middle class life.
Chaplain Grant Abbott said, “The worse health disparities are between Caucasians and American Indians—they are zeroed out.” He also said local churches are now providing shelter for “600 families and 1500 individuals of which 900 are children.”
Alfred Williams said, “I am concerned about people with disabilities and older people who have already paid their debt to society by working continuously for 40 to 50 years of their lives. They should be able to live comfortable for the remainder of their lives without worrying about basic necessities such as healthcare, food, transportation, and shelter.”
A woman who introduced herself as Barb said she will lose her job on July 1, and along with that, she voiced her concerns about Minnesota’s food and water quality as she cited a recent e-coli breakout in national news. She said she wonders what will happen to Minnesotans’ food and water if state-funded testing programs are cut.
A resident stood and said he pays “14 percent” in income taxes, and he just wants the rich and affluent two percent to pay their fair share of taxes, because currently the 98 percent who make up the middle class and the working class poor pay higher taxes.
Another resident stood and said he is in the two percent category, a graduate of West Point, and works 60 to 70 hours per week. He said he does not mind paying more taxes as long as his tax dollars are not wasted.
After an hour of discussions, the session came to a close. People talked one-on-one with the three legislators and each other, while agreeing to get their messages through to state lawmakers and Governor Dayton.