ST. PAUL, Minn. - They've been to the Minnesota State Capitol before bracing for inevitable cutbacks, and yet asking not to be forgotten.
They are people with physical challenges and learning disabilities who rely upon government services designed to help them live the most independent lives possible.
"We all deserve the chances everyone else has in life," Kurt Rutzen, who was born with Cerebral Palsy, told KARE.
Rutzen was among hundreds of persons with challenges and disabilities who gathered at the Capitol Thursday afternoon to hold a rally and meet legislators.
"The lawmakers here may not realize that they're just one bad fall, or one car accident, away from needing the same government services many of us are using," Rutzen remarked.
In the past disability rights advocates knew the state was in a fiscal jam, and a politically divided state government meant that spending would hold steady, or even drop from year to year.
But 2013 is expected to make up for lost ground, with the government controlled by Democrats who plan to raise taxes on higher income Minnesotans to erase the deficit and get away from the budget standoffs that have become the norm since 2003.
"We need to raise more revenue so we don't have to cut health and human services," Gov. Mark Dayton told the crowd at Thursday's rally.
Still this particular group of consumers isn't resting easy. The Human Services bill passed by the House of Representatives envisions spending $150 million less overall in Fiscal 2014-2015 than in the current two-year budget cycle.
"If we're not here they're not going to know about us," said Jim Lovold, who was born with spina bifida and uses a wheelchair.
"If we're here they can see us, and that's better than a phone call or email trying to explain the situation."
Lovold uses personal care assistants, or PCAs, in order to do some of the basic things that enable him to live independently. His PCA does a range of tasks from helping him get dressed to helping him shop for groceries.
"Right now I qualify for 10 hours of a PCA, but if my hours get cut I can't function as well. If the legislature doesn't support the PCAs, if we don't get them, we're going to end up shelved and warehoused," Lovold said, referring to institutional living.
Lovold said he was really happy that Sen. John Marty, a Roseville Democrat, remembered him Thursday after meeting him the year before at the Capitol.
Marty, in his speech, said that supportive services such as the PCAs may seem expensive, but in the long run they cut costs the state would incur if those clients are hospitalized, or forced to move to a skilled care nursing center.
"It's also expensive to our society, it robs us of important members of the community that we all need."
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