Budgets are reflections of values, and this proposal does not represent Minnesota priorities. Minnesotans demand that our core government services, like access to our justice system, be funded and this budget simply does not do that and actually moves our state backwards.
This proposal puts Minnesotans’ access to the justice system in jeopardy by drastically underfunding our court system. Chief Justice Lori Gildea broke tradition and testified in the Judiciary and Public Safety Conference Committee. Her message that “the Legislature’s failure to prioritize public safety and the justice system in this critical budget-setting process is deeply troubling,” did not sway the minds on the supporters of the conference committee’s proposal about the importance of funding our court system.
Along with the courts, the Guardian Ad Litem Board also will go underfunded. Under the Republican plan, the board will continue to fail to meet federal and state mandates without needed funding. This means more children will not have the representation they need looking out for their best interests in cases of abuse or neglect. This low funding will also mean the current waiting list for getting guardian ad litem will grow as child protection cases continue to increase.
The Department of Corrections (DOC) is also going underfunded which will lead to more recidivism and neglecting another core government duty. This bill drastically underfunds Minnesota’s corrections system. Without needed investments, the corrections system will remain understaffed, and it will get worse, and more dangerous for current employees, as the current budget will necessitate layoffs. Further programs aimed at reducing recidivism could be cut as the DOC will no longer be able to afford offering them.
Lastly, this budget proposal is full of controversial policy that does not need to pass during a budget year. The conference committee bill contains many controversial policies ranging from provisions aimed at infringing on the rights of protesters to allowing law enforcement to carry firearms in private establishments despite an owner’s objection to requiring the DOC commissioner to consider Appleton in any future prison bed expansion decisions. These policies, and many others in the bill, are not necessary to ensuring Minnesotans get the efficient government they demand.