Shortsighted budget proposals target seniors, working poor, and disabled

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This week the Republican majority has released their tax, education, and health and human services budget bills, targeting seniors, the working poor, and the disabled for disproportionate increases in taxes and cuts in the services they depend on.

In the Health and Human Services budget bill, seniors and persons with disabilities who receive services that allow them to remain at home instead of in an expensive nursing home or institution for the disabled are being asked to absorb the largest cuts. With these cuts, we will continue to have waiting lists of thousands of people with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. Despite the early assurances that the Republican majority would attempt to protect the most vulnerable, it is apparent that priority did not prevail.

In the past, Minnesota has honored those who have managed their finances carefully by having them pay the same rates for nursing home care that are paid by the state and federal government for persons on medical assistance. If the Republicans have their way, that protection will be gone. Those who have responsibly saved their hard-earned dollars will face higher nursing home bills.

The Republican tax bill cuts the renter’s credit (a refund of the property taxes they pay through their rent) by 46% even though rental properties are projected to have the largest property tax increases as a result of their cuts to local government aid. The working poor, seniors and persons with disabilities are the renters in Minnesota. The majority of these people live on less than $20,000 a year and the over $300 that they will lose on average is important to their checkbooks. Those dollars go directly into the local economy, unlike the tax breaks for big business championed by the majority.

As a co-chair of the Bipartisan Redesign Caucus I always welcome new, thoughtful approaches, but these proposals have not had thoughtful analysis, policy committee review of their impacts, or even a clear definition of who will be impacted. Weeks of hearings have been held without these ideas being brought forward – instead we’ve had cancelled meetings and hearings on issues that the courts have clearly already ruled unconstitutional. The thousands of people with disabilities whose lives will be seriously impacted by these proposals deserve that thoughtful and respectful consideration.

To ask low-income, frail seniors and those with major disabilities to take the deepest cuts in this recession is simply mean spirited. I believe most Minnesotans still want us to support those who have serious needs. I believe that the wealthiest Minnesotans should pay just a fraction more – to help us afford good public schools, keep our streets safe, keep higher education affordable, and care for the most vulnerable among us. Taking needed services from our elderly and the disabled is just not the Minnesota way.

On the budget and other issues, I welcome your comments, concerns, questions or feedback. You can call me at 651-296-4219 or email at rep.diane.loeffler@house.mn. Send mail to 335 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. St. Paul, MN 55155.