Yesterday morning, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s unilateral unallotment of funds earlier in the biennium did not meet the statutory requirements for using that power. The majority found that the language of the statute and the design of the State government do not allow for a Governor to use unallotment prior to agreeing to a budget. Chief Justice Magnuson wrote for the majority (Link goes to PDF):
…we cannot conclude that the Legislature intended to authorize the executive branch to use the unallotment process to balance the budget for an entire biennium when balanced spending and revenue legislation has not been initially agreed upon by the Legislature and the Governor. Instead, we conclude that the Legislature
intended the unallotment authority to serve the more narrow purpose of providing a mechanism by which the executive branch could address unanticipated deficits that occur after a balanced budget has previously been enacted.
The court chose to rule on narrow grounds, and it was a 4-3 decision. They intentionally did not take up the question of the underlying constitutionality of the unallotment statute. However, the implications represent a substantial shift in the balance of power at the Capitol. Just hours earlier, Gov. Pawlenty had vowed to cut an additional $500 M from the budget if the Legislature failed to do so, invoking unallotment. This decision makes that threat less credible.
Now, the pressing and serious question of how to balance the budget comes back to the Legislature. The full impact of this ruling is not yet known, but it is likely that it will create a substantial amount of conflict in the coming days. The budget must be balanced, and Federal money that both Gov. Pawlenty and the Legislature was counting on has not yet arrived. They must agree to a budget, but we do not expect the negotiations to be easy. Deeper cuts and the potential for a government shutdown may be in the future, as Pawlenty as renewed his vow not to include revenue increases as part of the solution.
As the Health and Human Services budget is considered, this decision is going to play a significant role. Many of the cuts made through the unallotment process were in this budget, and now must be renegotiated. We are already seeing strong signals that the Governor is unwilling to consider Medical Assistance expansion, even though hospitals have now refused to join in the replacement GAMC program.
Stay tuned and keep speaking up for mental health services in Minnesota.
As we continue to examine the House Health And Human Services budget, the worse the news gets. We do not see an effective framework for managing costs or promoting the well-being of our community. What we see are cuts to long-term programs that will lead to more crisis situations and worse outcomes for consumers.
Ways and Means will take up HF 2614 this Monday morning, and we need to make sure these Representatives get a lot more calls and emails in regard to these shocking cuts to mental health services before then.
Please call or email members of the Ways and Means Committee, or whoever is your Representative. Ask them to share with the Speaker that they do not support these devastating cuts to mental health services and will vote against this budget both in committee and on the floor if necessary.
Make sure you call your Representative regardless of their committee assignments, but in particular, members of the Ways and Means Committee need to hear about our concerns immediately.
Thank you to everyone who is helping make a difference in a very challenging time!
Mental health services in Minnesota unexpectedly lost ground today, as the House Health and Human Services Finance Division introduced their proposed budget. The bottom line is that the House is aiming to take more away from mental health services than the Governor.
We find it hard to believe that the same Legislators that worked so diligently to try to find some solution for GAMC would abandon the critical programs that help keep Minnesotans independent and prevent hospitalization or other high-cost crisis situations. This news requires our immediate and strong response. Please call your Representative immediately, and tell them what mental health services mean to you and what you think about these cuts:
- Supportive long-term housing is important because it provides stability and a chance to recover. It is the single most important priority we have for our community.
- Instead, State Operated Services hospital system escapes unscathed from cuts. This rewards them for ignoring the Legislature, and refusing to deliver the services that we need.
- ACT Teams help defuse crisis situations, and find treatment for those who need it most.
- Cuts to county mental health grants attack the backbone of mental health services in Minnesota, delivered in the communities where we live. They provide services such as clinics, case managers, and housing that help us recover.
- These cuts come on top of 9 million of reductions to mental health grants in the GAMC compromise bill above and beyond lost reimbursement for services. GAMC was redesigned by cannibalizing the mental health system. In total, these grants will have been cut by over a quarter.
- Mental health services stand alone in receiving additional cuts beyond what the Governor proposed. Nursing Homes and Disability services stand to retain 100 Million that would have been cut. Mental health services are valuable, too. We can’t be the only target.
- Ultimately, this is a revenue problem. The dismantling of successful programs that help save money in the long-term is not an appropriate response to a temporary and politically exacerbated revenue shortfall.
- Expanding Medical Assistance may be a positive part of extending services to those who can’t afford them, but other cuts to hospitals and providers will weaken the system at the same time we’re adding more patients.
Tom Johnson, one of our client advocates, puts it well. You can treat a disease, and that’s part of the solution. But you also have to believe in people, too.
These cuts hit the very services that help Minnesotans with mental illnesses believe in themselves again and find recovery. At the same time, this plan will overwhelm and erode the emergency safety net that is supposed to treat them when they need it most.
The House plan is unacceptable to our community. It represents more hospitalization, less management of our conditions, and more costs.
Please call today, and send this information on to anyone who wants better lives for Minnesotans with mental illnesses.