Prescription for pain

Minnesota’s economy is healthier than those of many other states, but maybe not for much longer. Both the impending shutdown and the GOP-proposed budget cuts are bad medicine, prescriptions for pain rather than for health. The breadth of pain that will be caused by the shutdown is mind-boggling, from poor people receiving medical or food or other assistance to state workers who will join the ranks of the unemployed to highway construction workers, whose projects will be shut down. The impact of a shutdown, in fact, would hit hardest many of the same people who would be hurt by the GOP’s cuts-only budget.

Workday Minnesota’s video of people in Rochester describing what will happen is powerful. So is the testimony that Bob Collins published on News Cut Wednesday:

I have broken down sobbing twice so far at the news about the Minnesota government shutdown. I am a single mother of three young children, one with autism and receiving services and therapies through Medical Assistance and Waivered Services. I have a masters degree in Experiential Education, which is “hands-on learning” and I am going through bankruptcy and on the brink of foreclosure. It’s not like I WANT to be on assistance, it’s my situation, and this housing economy, and my soon-to-be ex husband also receiving a “disability” diagnosis of autism, which is a social and communication disorder.

I have received two letters from Ramsey County Social Services saying that my daycare assistance will be shut down, and I’ve heard from my public health nurse that the Maxis system (welfare, food stamps, etc) and Child Support data base will be turned off during the state shutdown. Which means I will lose my income (through Community Involvement Programs, the fiscal entity which helps pay for my son’s disability services) and I will lose my child support payments.

The letter goes on, and I encourage you to go to News Cut and read it in full. Then there’s the St. Cloud forum, where constituents demanded that the three GOP lawmakers who called the meeting do something to avert a shutdown. The St. Cloud Times reported:

Frustration and tension were evident from legislators and citizens alike at the meeting, which came as Minnesota edges closer to an unprecedented shutdown of state government. …

Bechtold, of St. Cloud, and others at the meeting urged legislators and Dayton to find accord, even if it means making concessions.

“You’re not in office to hold your ground and die standing,” Bechtold told the legislators. “You’re here to compromise.”

But the Republican legislators still don’t get it. The Duluth News Tribune editorialized:

Some state employees are worrying about how they’ll make mortgage payments should state government shut down as expected next Friday. Health-care facilities wonder whether they’ll be able to afford to continue to care for residents sans state-issued Medicaid payments. Families are scrambling to change vacation plans that included state parks. And scores of others, from Beaver Creek to Beaver Bay, brace for major, potentially life-damaging inconveniences.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, are making sure they still get paid. … lawmakers are taking steps to make sure their payroll checks are issued on time and without hassle, no matter how long government shuts down.

The shutdown’s effects could be mitigated, if only partially, if courts order that critical government services continue. The four GOP legislators who filed a petition to the Supreme Court on Monday want none of that, demanding that ALL state government spending cease entirely on July 1, until a budget bill is passed.

As attention focuses on a shutdown, it’s important to remember that the issue is what kind of budget the state will have. Invest in Minnesota, a coalition of faith, labor and nonprofits, identified 20 ways that “a cuts-only approach has dangerous implications in both the short term and long term.” The Minnesota Budget Project, in its Minnesota Budget Bites blog, has focused throughout the year on the implications of budget decisions. The consequences of a state shutdown and the consequences of a cuts-only budget are very similar: a disproportionate and unfair impact on low and middle-income Minnesotans.

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