More than 300 nonprofit leaders met with legislators and Gov. Dayton amid concerns over constitutional amendments.
Judy Halper, who runs a nonprofit group that helps children and families, typically does not spend her days pondering the state constitution. But she and hundreds of other nonprofit leaders who met Friday are closely monitoring bills at the Legislature to limit state spending through constitutional amendments.
Halper already is quite familiar with spending limits. Her nonprofit, Jewish Family and Children's Service of Minneapolis, lost $1.4 million last year from state and federal government contracts. She's already laid off about 20 staffers.
"Our main concern is that needs have gone up but resources have gone down," said Halper. "A constitutional amendment [to limit state budget increases] could have a huge impact on our ability to keep meeting those needs."
Halper was among 300 nonprofit leaders attending a meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton and top legislative leaders Friday at an annual "Session Line Up" sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.
The nonprofits presented lawmakers with their usual requests, such as funds for affordable housing in the bonding bill and rollbacks in some human-services cuts. But for the first time, groups best known for providing health and human services were learning the ABCs of constitutional amendments.
At least two bills creating different formulas for limiting state spending through such amendments have been introduced in the Legislature, council leaders told nonprofits. The spending limits called for in those bills would not allow the state budget to adapt to changing community needs, demographics or the state's future economic fortunes, they said.
The Minnesota Budget Project, an initiative of the Council of Nonprofits, will hold training sessions on how such amendments work in the weeks ahead, said Nan Madden, project director. The first was held Friday.
Another proposed amendment also rankled the group. It would require voters to present a certain type of photo ID in order to vote, something that nonprofits said could disenfranchise some senior citizens, students and immigrant groups.
Nonprofit leaders had other concerns: Will the Legislature provide more funds for early-childhood education? What will the Legislature do to create more jobs? Do we really need to spend scarce dollars on a Vikings stadium?
They heard good news on the housing front. Dayton, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, and Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said affordable housing is on their agendas. Zellers labeled it "a priority," adding that details will be decided in coming weeks.
Dayton told the group that his legislative priorities include reversing cutbacks in funding for personal-care attendants for people with disabilities, and reversing some cuts to Emergency Medical Assistance coverage.
Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511