Editorial: Unfair and unwise
Minnesota's budget deficit is overwhelming, to be sure, and it may get even worse. Last week, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said the deficit could be as much as $7 billion, which would leave him and state legislators with an even more uphill battle in balancing the budget.
Pawlenty's current budget solution -- however temporary it may be -- is flawed for multiple reasons. We've frowned on the local government aid cuts before, so here's another area where deep fiscal slashing could make a severe impact: health and human services.
Staff members of Client Community Services Inc., Habilitative Services Inc., and New Dawn Inc. visited the Daily Globe Monday, and they gave a convincing argument as to just how devastating cuts in this area could be. They said reductions in health and human services funding represent 50 percent of the total cuts in Pawlenty's proposed budget, a number they maintain is unfair when K-12 education -- which comprises roughly 40 percent of the general fund -- is held harmless from the governor's axe.
The Association of Residential Resources in Minnesota (ARRM), which advocates for the aforementioned organizations, points out multiple types of fallout. Less money would be available to meet costly -- and often overwhelming and redundant -- state mandates. Matching Medicaid money would be lost, effectively resulting in a "double hit" to these community-based service systems. And, since these services are now in fact community-based (a far cry from the state institutions of another era), the trickle-down economic effect could well be significant. ARRM puts the 2007 economic impact of disability waivers in Nobles County alone at $4,541,428.
Yes, this year's budget is indeed a huge challenge. But we think the governor -- and then our legislators -- need to perform a true balancing act., and not tip the scale so drastically in one direction.