Democrats in the Minnesota House are pledging to spare nursing homes from budget cuts this session, and they’ll try to provide a modest cost of living adjustment for the employees in those facilities.
House DFL budget targets call for a $150 million reduction in health and human services spending, but the actual HHS finance bill won’t be released until next week. Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, chair of the House HHS committee, said during a news conference today that the people who care for the elderly and disabled need support.
“We are committed to make sure that the long-term care workers for nursing homes and people with disabilities get some kind of a COLA increase this year,” Huntley said. “It’s going to be tough, and we’re going to have to make some serious cuts in other areas. But this is one area that I will not cut, and I would like to see an increase.”
Huntley did not specify the amount he has in mind. But he said a 1 percent increase would cost about $30 million over two years.
Rep. Patti Fritz, DFL-Faribault, praised the commitment by her caucus leadership. Fritz, a longtime advocate for nursing homes, said she was deeply concerned when she first saw the budget targets and the proposed spending cuts.
“The workers have not had a wage increase in four years,” Fritz said. “They’ve had freezes and cuts, and the thought of cutting their wages again put a pit in my stomach.”
A Republican lawmaker was critical of the DFL approach. Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, said in a news release that the goal of providing raises for nursing home and long term care staff must be done in a way in a that’s sustainable, fair and transparent.
“It is my hope these proposed increases don’t come on the backs of our hospitals,” Schumacher wrote. “Because prioritized funding isn’t an option, Democrats continue to argue between tax hikes or cuts instead of reforming the way we provide services to the people of our state.”
Earlier in the week, people with disabilities and their care providers held their own news conference to urge DFL leaders in the House and Senate to reconsider their proposed HHS spending cuts.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is proposing to increase spending for health and human services programs by $170 million.