This past session, the legislature faced the unenviable task of cutting nearly $900 million from the state’s budget. Nearly $150 million was cut from Health and Human services, significantly less than the $526 million proposed cuts by Governor Tim Pawlenty. No funds were transferred from the Health Care Access fund and nursing homes did receive a cost of living adjustment, however budget cuts at this level can have a big effect on services to families, workers, youth, the disabled, and the elderly.
This next budget will be even more challenging. Budget shortfall estimates range from two to four billion dollars. Long term savings achieved from investments in health and human services are rarely reflected in short-term biennial budgets. Investments in the people of Minnesota are particularly critical when our state economy is suffering the effects of job losses, record home foreclosures, and rising food prices.
A letter recently received entitled Imagine Minnesota, representing nearly 200 organizations offers up the following vision for our state:
- Nobody goes to bed hungry
- Every person has access to the transportation they need to fully participate in their communities.
- Every person has a place to live and to work.
- Older adults and people with disabilities have access to the services they need.
- All children have access to quality early learning experiences.
- Everyone has access to quality health care, including mental health care.
Investments in health and human services are vital to hundreds of thousands of Minnesota’s most vulnerable citizens. Let’s keep them foremost in our minds when making budget decisions for the next biennium and beyond.