It is a contentious week at the Capitol in the high-stakes budget debate. Health care is the main focus of the Health and Human Service discussions, since it comprises the majority of spending in that portion of our state's budget. Child Welfare elements of the bills appear to have moved through unchanged*.
So that you don't have to scour the papers, this post is a collection of the coverage from the week's legislative activity, as it impacts the Child Welfare field.
From Politics in MN: Minnesota's budget battle starts in earnest
"Under Abeler's proposal, the state would spend $10.7 billion on health and human services programs in the next biennium. That's a modest increase over state spending levels in the current two-year budget cycle - but $1.6 billion less than required by statute for 2012-13." There is criticism that the budget bills in the House and Senate bank on savings from a federal Medicaid waiver that has not yet been approved. The DFL response? A mock amendment for the state to book $300 million in lottery winnings from this week's Mega Millions.
From MPR Daily Digest 3/25:
On Thursday March 24th, "The House Health and Human Services budget bill was changed to include a rate cut to hospitals. The bill moved out of committee later in the day." The next stop is the House Ways and Means Committee.
Today, Friday March 25th, "The Senate HHS committee and the Senate Taxes Committee will continue taking up their respective budget bills today. The committee chairs hope to move the bills out of committee by the end of the day."
This article from the Pioneer Press gives a sense of the debate's tone and the anticipated course of action:
"Although Abeler has referred to the bill as "phase one" -- a not-so-subtle hint that he anticipates a gubernatorial veto... In the end, the bill passed the joint committee 11-8 in a nearly party-line vote. Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, voted against it. The bill is likely to change before possibly reaching Dayton's desk. Its next stop is the House Ways and Means Committee next week en route to a debate and vote before the full chamber. After that, the bill would need to be matched up with its counterpart in the Senate."
A summary of the Senate's Health and Human Services bill, from the same Pioneer Press article:
"The Senate bill, sponsored by Assistant Majority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, is more straightforward -- and more aggressive -- in also reaching $1.6 billion toward the state's $5 billion projected two-year shortfall." Hann's bill is more opposed to federal health care reform. The bill is scheduled for a committee vote today, 3/25, then on to a vote by the full Senate.
The Star Tribune covered Governor Dayton's address to the Minnesota Social Services Association conference this week. The Governor was critical of both the bill's content and the Legislative leadership's handling of the bill.
From MN Budget Bites, deeper analysis on the trickle-down impacts of the budget proposals:
MN Budget Project: Senate health and human services omnibus bill released, will impact tens of thousands
"The Senate bill also reduces or eliminates a number of grant programs, including: A $22 million reduction in FY 2012-13 to Children and Community Services Act (CCSA) grants to counties that fund child protection and child and adult mental health services. This represents a 17 percent reduction in state funding for these services. These cuts would mean many children and adults would not be able to access the same level of in-home services, leading to more out-of-home placements."
And a reminder from MN Budget Bites that these proposals are bound to change:
"Representative Abeler admitted that many of the proposals in his bill are not final, but are more of a placeholder to provoke discussion on important issues."
From Children's Home Society (2011 Public Policy Agenda for Child Welfare and Permanency)
"The Minnesota Senate released their Health and Human Services budget this week which includes more harmful cuts to children and families. Children's Home Society & Family Services is deeply concerned about the impact of these cuts on our most vulnerable citizens."
CHS' named concerns in the areas of Early Childhood programming, Child Care, and Mental Health, as well as these Child Well-being Concerns:
"- The Senate cuts Adoption and Relative Custody Assistance grants by $6.8 million in addition to refusing to fund these programs at needed levels as the House is proposing (see 3/23 Action Alert).
- The Senate cuts Children and Community Services Act (CCSA), the only state funding for child protection and child mental health services."
Most of the focus was on the budget bill this week, but one other Child Welfare saw some action. H. F. No. 447, a bill for an act relating to vulnerable adults, had a hearing in the Committee on Judiciary Policy and Finance. It passed that committee and was re-referred to the Committee on Civil Law.
*Disclaimer: there were so many dozens of amendments and hours of testimony that I could have missed some Child Welfare details. If so, please leave a comment or send a note and fill us in on the changes!