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Welfare Rights Activists Say: No Cuts, Tax the Rich

by Linden Gawboy |
December 1, 2004
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St. Paul, MN - “Hey Pawlenty, here’s the fix! Tax the rich! Tax the rich!” is a chant that will ring though the Minnesota state capitol building on Jan. 4, 2005. The Welfare Rights Committee and the Minnesota Welfare Rights Coalition is organizing their annual protest for the opening day of the Minnesota legislative session. Welfare Rights Committee (WRC) members are going to the welfare offices in groups and gathering thousands of signatures for their mailing and phoning lists. Meanwhile, they are working on their bill to undo some of the worst healthcare and welfare cuts in Minnesota history.

Minnesota’s budget deficit is projected to be nearly a billion dollars. Two years ago, it was over $4.5 billion. Governor Pawlenty and Republicans - with the cooperation of a section of the Democratic leadership - ‘solved’ that budget deficit by cutting programs and services from poor and working people. Even now, there is little talk from Democrats about repealing the massive tax breaks that the rich got in the past five years. That is something the WRC wants to change, since there are hundreds of other cuts that have to be undone, such as wage freezes for state workers, childcare and healthcare cuts.

According to a Welfare Rights Committee statement, “In the last budget year, Pawlenty and House Republicans carried out an anti-poor, anti-worker, racist, sexist agenda that resulted in the wholesale slaughter of Minnesota health care and welfare programs. A $4.5 billion dollar deficit was balanced on the backs of poor and working Minnesotans! Minnesota schools, libraries, towns and public services have suffered massive cuts. Minnesota workers are told to bear the pain and pay with layoffs, wage cuts and increased health care costs! Pawlenty, claiming to be the ‘no tax’ governor, in his latest outright racist move, wants to rob Indian nations of 25% of their casino earnings, which is way more ‘tax’ than any corporation pays. Meanwhile, the richest in Minnesota have been enjoying tax givebacks of enormous proportions!”

The Poor People’s Bill

WRC will be reviving their bill from last year. Minnesota’s last legislative session ended in a stalemate; no bills passed and no bills failed. The bill, numbered Senate File 1991 last year, undoes some of worst welfare grant cuts in history. One of the cuts singles out families that are coping with disabilities, by taking $125 per disabled person per month from their family’s welfare grant. Considering that a welfare grant for a family of three is only $532, $125 is a huge hit. The bill also gets rid of a $50 per month cut to families in subsidized housing and undoes a state law that slaps liens on the farms, homes and businesses of elders who have to use home health services. To get the money, WRC’s bill closes a corporate tax loophole that allows Minnesota companies to avoid state taxes by claiming to be ‘foreign operating’ corporations. The $56 million generated by closing the tax loopholes will go to undoing the cuts. In order to make sure that happens, WRC members have been meeting with the leadership of the Senate to insist that the connection is part of any overall budget deal struck this year.

As Fight Back! goes to press, the WRC is planning to crash the party where the governor’s fiscal people unveil the budget projections for the coming year. “We know that the governor will try to paint a rosy picture. We will be there with a ‘counter-press conference’ to say that things in the state are bad for poor people, and that there needs to be a change,” said Angel Buechner of the Welfare Rights Committee.

The WRC is urging everyone to attend the opening day rally, “2005 will be a very important year at the state capitol. The recent election sent a message to Minnesota legislators and the governor - we are sick of the cuts and we are sick of the right-wing regime that has favored the wealthy and spurned the poor. As the state faces another budget deficit, it is critical that we state our case early - if the state is out of money, get the money from those who have it, like the cheating corporations and the wealthy! Don’t try to take even more from those of us who have nothing!”

Opening Day Rally, Tuesday, January 4, 2005, 12:00 noon. MN state capitol building.