It’s important for everyone — families, individuals and governments — to think about saving when there’s a little extra money to go around.

There are times, however, that spending should take presedence over saving. That’s why we support using about $15 million of the state’s budget surplus to streamline reporting of abuse and neglect of our elderly.

The plan comes from Gov. Mark Dayton and a bipartisan group of lawmakers who have proposed major changes to the way the state oversees elder care facilities. The proposal follows what’s apparently been years of abuse and neglect only recently revealed in a news report.

About 82,000 Minnesotans now live in senior care facilities. That number is expected to grow as more and more “Baby Boomers” age, and sometimes not so gracefully.

A state audit last week revealed “deep and pervasive failures” in the state’s regulations that contributed to a 50-percent increase in the number of complaints filed in the last five years. The Minnesota Legislative Auditor also found that Minnesota’s laws governing senior care facilities are unnecessarily complex.

The proposal does not come as a fix to just a few people falling through the bureaucratic cracks. This is a widespread problem that must be corrected and the solution must have buy-in from senior care providers across the state.

The proposal would allow complaints to be analyzed in an effort to isolate trends, establish new licensing for assisted living centers and dementia care facilitates, and impose stricter penalties for employees found to have threatened or abused elders in their care.

Clearly, taking care of our vulnerable seniors should be as important as protecting our children. This proposal would be a large step in the right direction toward curbing maltreatment of those who cared for us years ago, and establish a needed path forward for the many more elderly Minnesotans whom will soon need care.