Minnesota is racing toward the Monday, May 23rd, deadline. Governor Dayton has indicated that he will reject any legislative budget proposals that resolve the deficit using cuts only; Dayton is calling for an approach that includes cuts and increased revenue. See Politics in Minnesota and MPR. Yesterday, the legislators passed to Governor Dayton their final budget proposal, which does not include a revenue-raising approach. Given the entrenched nature of the budget debate, many are predicting a special session in order to resolve the deficit, and fears of a government shut down are looming.
The budget proposal is a collection of "omnibus bills" for several key budget areas. For child welfare, the area of most relevance is the Health and Human Services budget - one of the largest and most complex in the state. Our most recent blog post included details and links to information on the current budget proposal's cuts to the Children & Community Services Act, which funds the majority of the Child Protection services in the state. See "Health & Human Services conference committee reaches budget deal. CDF-MN provides analysis" from earlier in the week for the details.
Most of the Health and Human Services budget addresses health care issues. Many of the children and families involved in the child welfare system are impacted by public health care policy. Here are some snapshots from the Minnesota Budget Bites: $1.8 billion in cuts, $1.6 billion in general fund. The proposal repeals health insurance coverage for extremely low-income adults without children. Instead, individuals would be given a subsidy to help them purchase coverage on private market, but there is concern about affordable deductibles and copayments. For some youth aging out of foster care, this may remove their best health insurance option. Among other scaled-back programs, childcare services will also become less accessible under the proposal. In the early childhood community, this has raised concerns about development and education.
As noted in recent weeks, the legislative website is not up-to-date these days. From what we can tell, there was no movement on child welfare bills (aside from the Health & Human Services budget). Key issues that had been introduced but haven't seen any action lately include the Northstar Care for Children bill by DHS, the Family Reunification Act of 2011 and the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth Act. We'll keep you posted if we get word on any of these or other important child welfare bills yet this session.