OPINION | MN Catholic bishops respond to governor’s unallotment plans

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Prior to the announcement of Governor Pawlenty’s unallotment plan, the Minnesota Catholic bishops wrote a letter to the Governor urging him not to “impose even greater hardships on those among us who are struggling to live.”

In the June 12 letter, the nine Catholic bishops stated, “we are compelled to speak with and for those among us whose voices are not always heard, and whose lives are oftentimes devalued. We are gravely concerned that our state’s unbalanced budget for FY 2010-11 will be resolved by further eliminating critical services for Minnesotans with urgent needs. We fear that additional spending reductions to beneficial health care and human services programs will have detrimental consequences for those who are poor and vulnerable, and ultimately to our state.”

In asking the Governor to uphold the dignity of every human person, the Minnesota Catholic bishops also said: “We understand that the challenges facing our state are monumental and unprecedented. However, Minnesota must not become a state where people are viewed as burdens, and merely treated as cogs in our state’s economy. Instead, every state policy and program, including our state’s budget, must uphold the inviolable human dignity, value and worth of every person in Minnesota.”

A couple weeks ago, Governor Pawlenty announced his plan to unallot $2.675 billion in spending, including $236 million in the area of Health and Human Services (HHS). Twenty-eight of the 39 proposed unallotments are in the area of HHS, and 21 of the 28 HHS unallotments will take effect during the first year of the biennium (July 1, 2009 – June 30, 2010) rather than the second year (July 1, 2010 – June 30, 2011). That leaving little, if any, time for the Minnesota Legislature to respond when it reconvenes in February.

Who among us will suffer the most from the Governor’s unallotments? Governor Pawlenty’s unallotments fall disproportionately on our neighbors who are the poorest and most vulnerable – those among us who are struggling to meet basic needs. The $236 million in HHS unallotments are in addition to the $500 million in HHS cuts the Legislature made during session and the Governor’s $381 million line-item veto of General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC). The cuts, GAMC line-item veto, and unallotments total $1 billion in HHS reductions for FY 2010-11 – more than 20 percent of Minnesota’s original $4.8 billion budget deficit.

The Governor’s line-item veto of GAMC and his proposed unallotments ignore the human dignity of our poorest and most vulnerable neighbors, and will cause significant harm to those among us who we are called to place first. And, in turn, it will further weaken our state’s continual pursuit of the common good. Though the Governor’s plan includes several harmful unallotments, our greatest concerns are with the following seven proposed unallotments:

Elimination of Emergency Assistance
Elimination of GAMC Coverage
Cutting Children & Community Services Grants
Lowering Medical Assistance (MA) Asset Limits for Parents and
Eliminating MA Critical Access Dental Services
Requiring the Health Care Access Fund to Fund Transitional
MinnesotaCare and the Outreach Incentive Program
Cutting Funding for Group Residential Housing (GRH
Cutting the Renter’s Credit (included in Tax Policy, Aids and Credits)
Sowers of Justice is a Catholic Legislative Network sponsored by the Office for Social Justice, a division of Catholic Charities

Sowers of Justice is a Catholic Legislative Network sponsored by the Office for Social Justice, a division of Catholic Charities