Where to begin? This was a fast-paced week for policy decisions impacting the Child Welfare field. So fast-paced that the Minnesota State Legislature's website couldn't even keep up with hearings, amendments, schedules and votes. Sources like MN Public Radio and the MN Budget Project have had up-to-date information and analysis.
As noted in previous entries, the state's contribution to Child Welfare funding is proposed to be cut by 21% on a permanent basis. Let's start with where we stand now, what's up next, and then we can try to understand what happened.
First, the House version of a $1 billion budget cut (HF 130) was passed on 1/27/11. It had the minimum number of votes needed to pass. The bill was controversial, in part, because of the speed with which it traveled through committees to a floor vote. Some have argued that there has not been sufficient time or access for the public to weigh in on the permanent reductions to services (which includes Child Protection).
The same criticism has been made against the Senate's version (SF 60). This bill is ready for a vote by the full Senate body, likely on Monday, January 31st. It was introduced, appropriately, in Finance. According to precedent, a bill with this subject matter would have received a hearing in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. But in the rapid timeline of SF 60, no hearing in the Health and Human Services Committee occurred.
Supporters of the bills, and proponents of an expedited path to approval, argue that the reductions were approved by legislators last year, that these are continuations of the previous reductions, and that the severity of the budget deficit demands rapid action. Please read the next blog post for a deeper analysis of this argument - there are significant differences between last year's legislation and the current proposals.
1. Reduced allocations to the Children and Community Services grant (CCSA) have passed the House, and will be voted on by the Senate next week.
2. The cuts stand at 21%, or a $13.6 million reduction. This is down from the original proposal of $19.2 million (a 30% reduction).
3. If SF 60 passes the Senate, a conference committee will work out the discrepancies in other parts of the bills. HF 130 and SF 60 propose the same reductions to CCSA, so the Child Welfare elements of the bills would not likely change.
4. The bill would be sent to Governor Dayton, with legislative leaders hoping to deliver it ahead of the Feb. 15th date for the Governor's budget release.
It's no surprise that budget reductions have touched the Child Welfare field. With a $6 billion deficit to resolve, we're all bound to feel the impact. But just what does a 20% reduction to funding mean for Child Welfare services? The next entry will provide some analysis of the funding for Child Welfare in Minnesota, and link you to resources for further information.
If you can't wait until then, take a look at our Policy Brief for some background on our Child Welfare system and funding. The Policy Brief is a nonpartisan publication that could be helpful for your Senator to review before she or he votes on SF 60 next week. If you want to communicate with your Senator about this issue, you can find contact information to the right. If CASCW's Policy Brief supports your own policy position, feel free to send along the brief in your email to them.
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