Legislators Learn What AOC Does

Senators Bill Ingebrigtsen and Torrey Westrom ask Alexandria Opportunities Center Ex. Dir. Mike Burke about the process the employees go through to furnish a finished product for 3M.  The Senators were at AOC to hear about a campaign to raise funding for direct care staff who support these employees.

(St. Paul, MN) Officials at the State Capitol and in a number of Minnesota communities are wondering whether Governor Mark Dayton will sign a bonding bill for state public works projects that the legislature passed just before adjourning last Sunday. Senate Capital Investment Committee Chairman Dave Senjem says the one-point-five billion dollars in the bill are equal to the bill the Governor presented at the start of the session.

But a sticking point could be that nearly half the money would come from sources other than conventional "general obligation" bonds. Senate Democratic Leader Tom Bakk predicts Dayton will line-item veto some projects.

Senator Torrey Westrom of Elbow Lake says he leaves St Paul frustrated by the lack of engagement in committee and what he call the Governor changing his mind so often this session.

Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria says he asked the Governor to meet with him face to face several times during the session, to get a better handle on his position, but those meetings never happened. Of the many issues that will not make it if the bonding bill is vetoed is public finance authority money for rural communities…leading to a new title for the Governor.

(Hear our conversations with Senator(s) Westrom and Ingebrigtsen in the following audio clips.)

Rep. Mary Franson of Alexandria issued a statement in response to the governor's vetoes.  She spoke specifically about how the veto blocks legislation which would have prevented a seven-percent wage cut for staff who care for Minnesota’s disabled community. A provision in the bill would have provided money through grants to ensure care providers don’t see their wages fall starting in July as a result of cuts in federal aid.

Franson says “It is essential that the D-W-R-S program is funded. She adds, “Home based community services are already struggling to keep qualified staff due to low wages, and adding a 7 percent cut will only exacerbate the problem.”

Franson concluded that “the budget bill would have reinstated the funding that is desperately needed. Every year we hear from the governor about the need to fully fund our schools – our most vulnerable also deserve to be funded.”

Mike Burke is executive director of Alexandria Opportunities Center and also the state president of MOHR (Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation).

He says The Alexandria Opportunities Center clients and staff are very disappointed in the legislative process. He says this cut of 7% has to come at the expense of staff who already are underpaid and under appreciated. This 7% cut will come at the expense of our clients who deserve more opportunities in the community. Most of all this cut is at the expense of the most vulnerable people of Minnesota. Saying “They deserve more.”

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