Mother’s Day Reflection

My husband is the “keeper of the past.” He uses ancestry.com, rents a large storage unit to hold all his burgeoning books and collectibles and he’s still in touch with his best friend from kindergarten. I, on the other hand, tend to look toward the future. I use Facebook, like science fiction and enjoy meeting new people.

In my legislative life I also am a “caretaker of the future.” For more than two decades now I have helped craft Minnesota’s budgets and policies. Although details of the proposals might change, one thing remains constant: I always keep the future of Minnesota’s most vulnerable citizens front and center.

As a mother, I want to create a legacy that will ensure good schools, safe streets and a clean environment for our children. As a grandmother, I want to ensure that opportunities for higher education will be there for generations to come. And as a daughter, I want to guarantee that quality care options are available for my Alzheimer-afflicted Mom and all our aging parents.

With only two weeks left in the 2011 Legislative Session, it’s clear that the Republican budget will devastate the future of Minnesota. In particular, our women, children and seniors will suffer at the hands of this proposed budget.

The Republican budget cuts K-12 education and programs for the most vulnerable kids in the state. The budget proposal takes money out of urban school districts and shifts it to private schools and wealthy school districts. Additionally, it phases out aid for Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth; this cut is a direct hit to students most in need of educational services and will short-circuit efforts to close the achievement gap.

The Republican approach also cuts funding over the next two years for special education. This move affects every school district in the state and the result of this change will likely be higher property taxes and further cuts to general education programs to cover costs.

Unprecedented cuts are proposed in the Republican budget to our state’s higher education systems. Funding for Minnesota’s public colleges and universities is slashed by nearly 20%. Women in Minnesota use higher education as a way to improve their job opportunities, their pay equity and to develop economic security for themselves and their families, but the all-cuts budget approach undermines these opportunities.

The Health and Human Services proposal makes deep cuts to programs for seniors and people with disabilities. For thousands of families, this will mean that a parent — and often the woman — will have to forego critical income earned outside the home to take care of a child or an elderly parent.

Sweeping changes to Medical Assistance and Minnesota-Care will eliminate health care coverage for more than 100,000 Minnesotans. Cuts to Minnesota’s innovative prevention programs will derail our widely recognized health care reform model. The proposal puts many thousands of low-income Minnesotans into unrealistic and unaffordable high-premium, high-deductible private insurance plans. The vast majority will opt for no coverage at all – ending up in expensive hospital emergency rooms with all Minnesotans footing the bill.

The Republican budget also makes devastating cuts to child care, disability services, help for the mentally ill, assistance for the chemically-dependent and relief for the homeless. Deep cuts to hospital providers are expected to cause layoffs of nurses and other health care workers who serve seniors, the infirmed and the disabled.

“Keepers of the past” – such as my husband – know that Minnesota has a proud history of providing for our state’s most vulnerable populations. In particular, Minnesota has a long tradition of supporting women, who in turn, support multitudes of others by providing for their families, caring for their elderly parents, teaching their children and raising their grandchildren.

This is no time to increase women’s financial burdens. Our state’s budget crisis requires a balanced solution based on shared sacrifice. Cuts will need to be made; but we also must bring in new revenue if we are to secure Minnesota’s future. For the sake of our mothers and grandmothers, our children and grand children, for the sake of all Minnesotans, we must not abandon our past tradition of providing for our future generations.

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Senator Sandy Pappas
Sandy Pappas represents District 65, which includes portions of Saint Paul in Ramsey County in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

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