Despite warnings of cuts to child protection, House committee passes cuts in human services

Despite claims it will result in less protection for victims of child abuse and trauma, House Republicans this afternoon passed a bill to make cuts in human services in Minnesota permanent.

“We are faced with a challenge that’s bigger than we’ve ever had, with less resources than we’ve ever had. I’ve been a party to it in the past,” Rep. Jim Abeler,the chair of the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee, said.

But Democrat Larry Hosch said Abeler’s bill was only introduced at 3 yesterday afternoon, and guessed that many of the new lawmakers don’t even know the acronyms in the bill.

“These are the most vulnerable children; children who have experienced neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. Only 60 percent of reports investigated in a timely fashion. Will this bill help that? Probably not,” Hosch said.

Still, with only 45 minutes of debate over the bill, House Republicans probably knew what was at stake because Mary Regan, the executive director of the Minnesota Council of Child Caring Agencies, spelled it out for them.

“These are the only state dollars in Minnesota’s child protection system,” she said. “Minnesota puts fewer state dollars in child protection than any other state in the country. The grant is reduced by 30%. Investing allegations of abuse and neglect is a core function of our society. Nobody else can take on this essential task.”

“When childhood goes wrong, adulthood goes wrong and the sad story of abuse repeats itself from one troubled generation to the next,” she said.

Jessica Webster, a staff attorney for Legal Aid, said the bill will hurt more than just children. “One of the things that’s frustrating, when we get these pieces of legislation, there’s nothing here that shows the people who receive these services,” she said. “Low-income people who are sick, who have serious injuries, poor people who have ill or injured children, battered women in battered women’s shelters, people living in homeless shelters, homeless youth, displaced homemakers, the developmentally disabled, people with low IQ, people who are mentally ill. All of these people are unable to work.”

But Republicans said they were not cutting the programs, since the programs had already been cut by lawmakers in their last-minute deal with then Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

“These folks having genuine needs, but over the last year or so, what this bill does just maintains… so what was done in the last year would be continuing,” Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer said. “You hear some of these phrases …. what we do is we make spending permanent. It’s not that needs don’t get met, but that they may be met in a different way.”

Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, also failed in a bid to remove a cut in provider reimbursements for primary care doctors. “There’s been a 60-percent drop in Minnesota in the number of medical students going into primary care medicine. “If you vote against this, you are voting for a specific cut on primary care docs, and no other physicians.

“This is how we budget sometimes around here,” Abeler said. “This is a drop in the ocean.” Abeler said he’s received no phone calls opposing the extension of the cuts.

The committee passed the bill on a 11-to-7 party-line vote.

(See roll call vote)

  • Kassie

    I understand that government expenditures must be cut. I get that. But why does it always have to be Dept. Of Human Services first? Always. At least with the Repulicans. It isn’t “here are our across the board reductions that will affect all Minnesotans.” It is “the Dept of Human Services is too big and must be cut.” Maybe it is too big. But so are a lot of agencies.

  • Not a fan of the cuts. I know this is un American of me but I would rather have my taxes raised than see cuts child protection services.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Heartless Republican scum.

  • Jim

    But, you see, they don’t care about poor people. That’s why they’re such good “Christians.”

  • kwatt

    Does the bill actually reduce funding levels? Or does it remove an increase that was promised despite there being no identified plan to pay for it? There’s a significant difference.

    It’s also important to note that Reps. Hosch and Huntley voted for this level of funding last May.

  • MR

    If the bill was introduced yesterday at 3pm, and then voted on sometime during the middle of the day today, is Rep. Abeler surprised that he received no phone calls?

  • Bob Collins

    KWatt, I’ll let Rep. Abeler’s bill language speak for itself:

    “…relating to state government finance; making appropriation reductions to human services.”

    BTW, Rep. Huntley contends that the reimbursement cut to primary care docs — only — is a new cut.

  • Shane

    I am a little confused. When it listes the ‘Appropriations Available for the Year…” are those the figures that WERE going to be allocated to those programs? Or are they the new reduced number?

  • kwatt

    Right, but is that reduction to or below the current level?

    Put another way, if I gave you $100 today and said $1,000 is coming tomorrow, but then only gave you $100 tomorrow, do you have $900 less than you did yesterday?

  • Bob Collins

    No, you have $900 less than you would have had tomorrow..

    Of course, in the practical world, some claim, the fact that the reductions were backfilled with federal money — which made them palatable at the time, perhaps — negates the metaphor. In effect, then, it would be more like being promised $1,000, then given $100 and told to get the other $900 from Mom. You get the other $900 from Mom but then Mom and Dad get a divorce the next year and you still only get $100.

    And then Dad says, “don’t worry, we were never married to begin with.” (g)

  • Al Heebsh

    Hey ‘pro-life’ voters out there: How ‘pro-life’ does your party look now? Do you suppose the ‘Christian’ pro-life politicians really just use opposition to abortion to get your vote? Abortion is about the only ‘pro-life’ issue that many Republicans are pro-life on, and this vote adds to the mountain of evidence.

  • kwatt

    You lost me.

  • MR

    Let me give it a shot, if I’m interpreting Bob:

    Last year, the legislature made an actual (temporary) cut in funding from the funding level of the previous year. As part of the stimulus package, the Feds stepped in and covered (most of? all of?) the gap between the legislature’s allocated funding amount and the previous year’s funding amount.

    Rep. Abeler’s bill makes permanent the funding level of last year (I don’t know if they reduced it below the level of last year), but this year, there is no federal stimulus to cover any part of that gap. So there is an actual (and fairly significant) reduction in funding to all of these programs from last year to this year, even though the Minnesota expenditures did not change much, if at all.

    Bob: am I on the right track?

  • anonymous

    When I was a little girl I was molested by my father. It went on for years. Well meaning adults in my life looked the other way when I displayed odd behavior because they couldn’t believe that it was possible my dad was hurting me. Dad was an upstanding member of our church, and a business leader in our community. Abuse does not know race, religion, or class, but no one wants to believe it is in their own family.

    At age 17 I finally found an adult who I could talk to; as a psychologist, she was a mandated reporter. She contacted child protection, and my dad was questioned by police. My dad called me after being questioned, and told me about his childhood. I learned that my grandfather had molested my dad through out his childhood. Rather than face the consequences of what he had done to me, my father committed suicide, leaving behind both a 13 year old and a 17 year old daughter. It is confusing as a survivor to both love and hate the adults that were supposed to protect and care for me.

    If there had been resources for my dad when he was a child, or if it has been more socially acceptable for an adult man to find help, could my abuse have been prevented? I don’t know. As Mary Regan said in Bob’s post above, “When childhood goes wrong, adulthood goes wrong and the sad story of abuse repeats itself from one troubled generation to the next.” Not all victims grow up to be abusers, but most abusers were victims. And many victims continue to be victims until they get help.

    Many survivors end up in abusive relationships, parenting at a young age, coping with chemical dependency, homelessness, etc. All of those roadbloacks impacted my early adult life in some form, but as time has passed I have been able to grow and get the support I need to truly thrive in life. I am grateful that I have made it to where I am today. I am one of the lucky ones. I have a great job, a post graduate education, two beautiful kids, and an amazing husband who is beyond supportive.

    I have the privilidge of breaking the cycle for my family, and it truly is a privilige, but it is also a lot of work. I continue to get counseling from specialized programs such as the Rape and Sexual Abuse Center in Minneapolis(RSAC). I struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and some days are a real battle for me. Re-learning how to love, and how to be loved, has not been easy.

    I care deeply for the many people who still need access to help. I have learned much about prevention and services available in our state, I have been sadly surprised at how hard it is for programs that help women and children recovering from abuse to raise money. The need is great: 1 in 4 women have been sexually assaulted, and estimates of the impact on men range between 1 in 5 to 1 in 7.

    If we as a state and as a community of people want to cut costs AND care for our children, we ought to invest in research, prevention, and treatment up front (as opposed to prisons down the road). Our children, and our future, is worth the investment. Breaking the cycle is the solution.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Dear anonymous – Wow. If only you had been able to testify before the committee. Your powerful, articulate statement surely would have swayed even the coldest and most cynical of politicians. Thanks for your courageous work.

  • kwatt

    I don’t know how much of what was in this particular bill was backed up with now-gone federal money. That stuff tends to come with fairly explicit instructions and strings, which, once we accept the money, further tie our hands.

  • Jennifer

    Here’s my question.

    I’ve often heard that the number of those needing assistance due to domestic/child abuse issues increases during a recession. Is that currently true in the state of Minnesota? If so, wouldn’t freezing spending to a certain level essentially amount to a cut anyway (regardless of the debate over last year’s federal stimulus funds) because it would require the agencies to serve more people while maintaining the same level of expenses?

  • I need to confirm this, but I’m fairly sure there’s no “cut”at all. Merely cutting the projected *37%* increase in HHS budget in the ’12-13 budget.

    Are HHS needs increasing? Maybe, maybe not. Up 37%? No.

  • Bonnie

    I wish that all of the budget cuts or ups and downs would be defined in terms of jobs, because really, that is what all of this money represents. There are a few post it notes and laptops and mileage reimbursements involved, but overwhelmingly we are talking about jobs. How many people added, how many people cut. That’s really what I want to know.

  • Bob Collins

    The answer is in here… somewhere, Mitch. HF1, from the special session in the last session.

  • Nate

    Here’s the info for the cuts for MN out of the link Bob provided. The first number is 2010, second is 2011, they’re in parentheses because the numbers represent reductions from 2009 levels. MR’s description sounds right to me. The cuts are in effect for the current biennium only. The GOP proposal is to pass a law saying State funding would not return to their pre-cut levels after this biennium as intended. If any of the reduction that was covered by federal stimulus dollars that’s gone, whatever strings may have been attached, well gone also.

    “The appropriation reductions for each

    purpose are shown in the following


    Subd. 3.Children and Economic Assistance


    (a) Child Support Enforcement Grants (3,400,000) (1,249,000)

    (b) Children’s Services Grants

    (600,000) -0- ”

  • Gretchen Halverson

    Rep. Abeler was endorsed by the MN Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, for his bipartisan work on behalf of the voiceless – and THIS is how he repays us?! As a social worker, and a personal friend of the Abeler family, I AM LIVID.

    The bill was introduced less than 24 hrs before the vote – and Rep. Abeler points out he has received no calls? I’m not sure that’s something to be pointing to, as he is bound to receive them now.

    Kudos to fellow social worker Rep. Larry Hosch for speaking up for those who were not allowed to. Kudos to Mary Regan for continuing to speak for the children, as she has done for decades.

    And SHAME ON GOP LEGISLATORS for continuing to balance the budget on the backs of this state’s poor, sick, elderly, and young. SHAME ON YOU.