Wednesday, December 17, 2008

80 ideas to cure poverty

Minnesota is about to complete a year long commission on poverty. The commission's members have traveled the state to hear from the public, and they have boiled all the comments down into 80 ways to cure poverty.

With the state facing a budget deficit, it's doubtful that all 80 ideas in the report will be implemented right away. Charlie Shaw from the St. Paul Star Ledger looked into the commissions report.

The current draft of the final report contains some 80 recommendations. Because of that number, Gregory Gray, the commission’s director, said the recommendations were divided into seven descriptive categories such as “Making state programs more responsive” and “Preventing and alleviating poverty through a high-quality education system.”

The recommendations will hit the Legislature at a time when the state’s general fund is drowning in red ink. Many would cost the state money to implement. For example, the commission wants to increase the Working Family Credit and other tax credits for low-income workers. The commission also wants the state to guarantee child care for all low-income working families by including all families within 300 percent of federal poverty guidelines in public health care programs.

Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, a co-chairman of the commission, said the group of 18 legislators and two gubernatorial appointees has looked at the benefits the state would receive by paying for these programs. But he acknowledged they wouldn’t come cheap.

“I think … it needs to be aggressive. Unless you believe you’re going to do it in the private sector, it’s logical you would have outlays before 2020,” Mariani said.

Asked if some of the commission’s recommendations can get passed in 2009, Mariani said, “I do. But it’s in the context of hope.”

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