Those budget cuts sailing through the legislative process will create more “barriers” for women in Minnesota, a group of DFL female legislators said Tuesday.
Cuts in K-12 education, higher ed, public safety, human services and even taxes will place a disproportionately higher burden on women, the legislators said, although they stopped short of saying the Republicans are “targeting women.”
“I don’t think they’re necessarily targeting women, but their actions are having a greater impact on women,” said Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester.
Republican women, of course, rejected the claims, saying its their party’s efforts to cut back government that’s not only business-friendly, but family-friendly as well.
Sen. Amy Koch, the first woman ever to serve as majority leader of the Senate, told the Pioneer Press that she simply “rejects” the claims of the DFL legislators.
“Minnesota women do indeed make the budgets at home, and we’re well aware of our current economy,” she said. Minnesota women have drawn in their belts, and the state needs to do the same.”
Republicans have made sporadic efforts this session to repeal the gender pay-equity protection laws that have helped Minnesota women employed in the public sector since 1984.
But Republicans say it was the League of Cities, hardly a bastion of conservative thought, that asked them to repeal that law because it was a “burdensome” mandate. (Local governments are required to file data on their pay practices every two years under the law.)
At least in the Senate, a rookie freshman, John Carlson of Bemidji, got burned by carrying the bill calling for repeal of pay equity. When critics started firing at him for carrying the bill, he quickly pulled it back.
“Really stupid,” Carlson said of carrying the bill in the first place.
That bill does still exist in the House, although it’s likely not going anywhere.
But the DFL legislators said there are a number of bills moving through the system that will have major economic impact on women.
The reduction of the renters’ credit is an example of a bill that will hurt women — and seniors — at a greater level than men, they said.
Cuts to programs for victims of domestic violence and violence to children will have a direct impact on women. (Republicans said they worked to make cuts in those programs as small as possible.)
The DFL women said that efforts to freeze teacher pay and virtually eliminate a teacher’s right to strike will hurt women, because 70 percent of the K-12 workforce is made up of women.
Likewise, the DFL legislators said, cuts to the Human Services budget will hit women hard.
First, they said, there’s the workplace issue. Human Services cuts will mean cuts to hospital and nursing staff positions. They said that 93 percent of the nursing positions in the state are filled by women.
Additionally, though, they said Human Services cuts will require more women, who remain caretakers in most families, to take over jobs now filled by personal care attendants or nursing home staffs.
“They’re cutting programs that will force women to stay at home,” said Rep. Erin Murphy of St. Paul.
These cuts are coming at a time when economic recovery is coming at a slower rate for women than men, the DFL legislators said. Women lost three of every 10 jobs during the recession, they said, but only one in 10 of those now being hired are women.
The DFL reps, however, said that the fast process being used to move major bills through committees has meant less time for legislators to listen to testimony on the subtle impacts being created by many of the bills.
“As bill come up, the Republicans [men and women] are just voting as a block,” Liebling said. “We don’t even think they’re listening to points we’re trying to make about the impact.”
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.