Legislative Session 2001 (holding your breath)
From now until the end of the legislative session is a period of "as is." How the County will do its business depends on how the Legislature does theirs. Each year the Board meets as the Legislative Committee of the Whole and prioritizes issues that will need legislative attention. This year the County Manager's office printed a brochure of the Issues of Importance for Ramsey County. A copy of the brochure can be obtained by asking for Debbie at 266-8000 in the County Manager's office. A summary of those issues follows:
Revenue Diversification: Counties rely almost exclusively on property taxes to finance local programs, especially in the Health and Human Services Public Safety/Criminal Justice areas. Unfunded mandated programs are a major strain on the County.
Property Tax Reform: As reforms are crafted, financial relief from the State for the social service and criminal justice demands currently funded by property taxes is imperative.
Regional Transit/Transportation: The Board urges the State to develop a dedicated funding source to fund all transit and transportation because it is so critical locally, regionally, and statewide.
Child Protection: To adequately respond to the needs of children in this community, the State needs to expand its financial commitment. Counties and municipalities do not have the financial base to pay for all of these critical services.
Welfare Reform-Human Services: The Board reaffirms its commitment to implementing welfare reform programs in line with state and federal "work first" legislation. As federal and state funds run out, the County has stated that it does not support use of property taxes to finance related services, such as child welfare programs or homeless shelters, which may be necessitated as the State's reform measures continue.
Mental Health Services: The Ramsey County Board is committed to providing support services and assistance to children and adults with mental health needs…. Hospitalizations have decreased and more people are able to remain living in the community due to the County's Intensive Case Management. Hundreds of adults and more than 1500 children could see those kinds of results if resources were available to deliver them.
Uncompensated Care: The State should create a permanent system to finance the costs of inpatient medical facilities and community clinics that provide health care services and programs to those who can least afford them.
Parks and Recreation: The County Board requests continued state financial participation in the Metropolitan Regional Park System.
Land Use/Housing: The shortage of life-cycle housing continues to be severe. A greater emphasis must be placed on state financing and clean-up of polluted lands (commonly called brown fields) as one option.
Human Resources Issues: The PERA shortfall (approximately $1.7 billion) should not become a burden on local government and local property taxpayers.
So relax and keep breathing. The surprises and actions taken by the legislature will not be known until late spring.
Author: Commissioner Rettman's Office / Information Services