Leah Gardner, outreach coordinator at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits’ Minnesota Budget Project, wrote this guest post for the State Watch blog:
Minnesota is facing a $5-billion budget shortfall and the Legislature is unfortunately taking a “cuts only” approach to closing the gap. The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits is a lead partner along with other religious, labor, and nonprofit groups in a coalition that is trying to persuade lawmakers that they should take a balanced approach that includes raising revenue.
Our coalition, Invest in Minnesota, decided to highlight the impact of 20 specific proposed budget cuts by starting a “20 Ways in 20 Days Campaign” over the last 20 days of the legislative session, which ended on Monday without a budget agreement.
One story was released each day, each featuring a personal testimonial. The stories are distributed online through the coalition Web site and are echoed on Web sites and in e-mails, blogs, and social-media outlets maintained by coalition members. We also sent a copy of each story to every legislator daily.
Here is an example, highlighting the proposed 17.5-percent cut to the Office of Justice Programs, which would result in reductions to domestic-violence services statewide:
Jennifer is a mother, successful business owner, and community leader. She is also a survivor of 17 years of domestic violence. In 2008, after she was brutally beaten, held hostage, and raped by her husband, the police introduced her to Southern Valley Alliance for Battered Women. Jennifer worked with an advocate to develop a safety plan, allowing her and her daughter to survive a life-threatening situation.
Today she owns two early-childhood learning centers that help subsidize services for several victims of domestic violence. As a survivor, Jennifer is grateful for the support she received and credits Southern Valley Alliance with saving her life. She is also proud to be able to use her voice and business resources to support other women working to escape violence.
Domestic-violence services play a critical role in the safety and survival of families like Jennifer’s. Cutting their state funding would eliminate a critical lifeline in a successful system that ultimately saved Jennifer’s life. By raising revenues, Minnesota can continue to invest in safe families and communities, ultimately saving the lives of countless women and children in our state.
Other stories highlighted the short-term impact of proposed cuts to services helping people in tough times, including those with disabilities, seniors needing in-home care, children needing mental-health services, and families escaping homelessness.
Invest in Minnesota also argues that a “cuts-only” effort will harm our future as a state by taking money away from higher education, transit systems, and our environment.
With the “20 Ways in 20 Days Campaign,” we have been able to illustrate that budget-balancing is more than a math problem, it’s about the everyday impact that state services have on people’s lives. As the budget negotiations continue into a special session, these stories will continue to make the case for a better solution for our state—a balanced approach that includes raising revenues and allows us to invest in our people and our future.