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Minority councils get grim news

Published (2/18/2010)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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Although they receive only a sliver of the state’s biennial budget, that amount keeps four state minority councils operating. However, proposed cuts call into question their abilities to keep focused on 14 percent of the state’s population.

Along with most state agencies, the governor’s supplemental budget proposes a 3 percent cut of unspent funds during this fiscal year to the Council on Black Minnesotans, Chicano Latino Affairs Council, Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans and the St. Paul office of the Indian Affairs Council. The groups are also expected to absorb a 6 percent to 9 percent cut in each of the ensuing three fiscal years.

This was part of what Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown) called the “grim news” for the House Cultural and Outdoor Resources Finance Division Feb. 17 as members reviewed budget cuts proposed for areas under their jurisdiction. No action was taken.

The 2009 Legislature asked for a study on whether it would make financial sense for the councils to collocate, and the impacts that collocation would have on each council’s operations. The report, prepared by the Management Analysis Division of Minnesota Management & Budget, shows little savings would occur by collocating. Additionally the councils noted that client service and privacy, as well as council identity and autonomy are operational concerns.

Murphy, the division chairwoman, said results of a study could be a moot point.

“I wonder if the councils are going to be wondering if they could stay where they are at all because the knight was not kind,” Murphy said. “The report, although very well done, doesn’t help us much.”

The governor’s proposal acknowledges that council cuts, if enacted, would result in a reduction of staff hours and reductions to other operating expenses.

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