Inside the Capitol: The morality of crafting a budget

The Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, is providing an “Inside the Capitol” update twice a month during the state legislative session.

By Minnesota Catholic Conference

There are only two things that are certain in life: death and taxes, as the saying goes. But our state government must also accomplish one other thing: a budget. And, it must be balanced, so says our state’s constitution. This is currently what our state legislature is trying to sort out.

A budget is a moral document. How money is spent (or saved) reflects values and priorities. Like with a family budget, the state should prioritize needs over amenities and focus on the most vulnerable. Just like in a family, that often means prioritizing the needs of children and the elderly.

February’s new budget forecast will inform the budgets crafted by senators and representatives. At this stage, the governor’s budget proposal of $52.4 billion over two years is best viewed as an aspirational offer to legislators. The governor, Senate and House must agree on the budget or a government shutdown could occur at the start of the fiscal year on July 1. To avoid a shutdown, there will need to be a bipartisan compromise.

Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC) does not take a position on the overall budget nor the right amounts to be spent but instead encourages legislators to prioritize the needs of the poor and vulnerable. With this in mind, MCC is discouraging bills that would legalize predatory gambling (often referred to as sports betting) and recreational marijuana. These bills are being proposed to fill gaps in the state’s budget. Simply put, legalizing these vices for tax revenue is not worth the long-term cost to people’s health, finances and social well-being. Additionally, MCC will encourage legislators to focus on specific appropriations that the bishops believe will best protect life and human dignity.

As the session continues, a flurry of bills is working its way through the legislative process. Among them:

HF102 — This bill deals with predatory payday lending business practices. MCC opposes payday lending and supports Rep. Jim Davnie’s bill proposing to cap the total amount of interest, finance charges and fees for consumer short-term and small loans at 36 percent. MCC offered written testimony making it clear that these predatory practices amount to usuary — a sinful practice that holds the poor hostage and entraps them further in a debt cycle from which it is difficult to escape.  

HF7/SF29 — These bills aim to ensure all workers can take time to heal and care for their families. MCC co-signed a letter supporting this proposal to allow hourly workers to accrue up to 48 hours of paid time per year to care for themselves or a loved one. It protects people from getting fired if, for example, a child gets sick during the middle of their shift.

ACTION ALERT

Track the progress of these and more bills, learn why MCC supports or opposes certain bills, and find your legislators’ contact information on our website: www.mncatholic.org/actioncenter.

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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