For more information contact: Peter Glessing 651-296-4230
As a first-term member of the legislature, I’ve certainly learned a lot about the way St. Paul works over the past 15 months. It’s frustrating to me that those in charge in St. Paul seem to emulate politicians in Washington, DC.
A perfect example of St. Paul political games occurred on Thursday during the debate on the so-called Omnibus Supplemental Appropriations Bill. That’s St. Paul talk for spending even more of your money.
We have a few key priorities that need to be funded. For instance, I’m happy the bill contained equity funding for the Elk River Area School District (approximately $300,000 more annually) and equity funding for the Big Lake School District (approximately $60,000 more annually). I’ve been working hard on this issue since I was first sworn as a member of the House in 2013 with local school district officials and am proud we were finally able to get this done. I’m also pleased the legislation had a 5% increase rate funding for nursing homes and those who work with the disability community. Making sure our most vulnerable citizens are properly taken care of is a priority for me.
Unfortunately, this 400-page piece of legislation also contained unrelated policy and funding provisions from every area of state government including a bailout of Obamacare. Specifically, it authorizes taking $442 million from the General Fund in fiscal year 2016-2017 to refill the Healthcare Access Fund, a fund created to increase access to health care for the uninsured, because of a hole created by increased costs of Obamacare. In other words, this is a funding shift and accounting gimmick.
When we pointed this issue out to our Democrat colleagues on the House floor and tried to offer amendments that would require more transparency and accountability to MNsure – the Minnesota agency tasked with implementing Obamacare – Democrat legislators actually voted to block debate. We couldn’t even get up-or-down votes on our amendments because they were not “germane” (meaning not relevant) to the floor debate. From talking to constituents recently, I know that issues with Obamacare are certainly germane to their own lives.
In order to improve this flawed bill, I supported efforts put forward by my Republican colleagues that would have put $65 per-pupil on the basic formula for K-12 Education, fully funded the 5% rate increase for disability care workers, and increased penalties even stronger for sex offenders than what the Democrats proposed to do. Unfortunately, the Democrats didn’t take any of these proposals.
During the 2013 Legislative Session, Democrat legislators imposed a $2.1 billion tax increase on hardworking Minnesotans and spent $4 billion more than the previous two-year budget. Now that we have a projected surplus, perhaps we should focus on funding a few key priorities and return the remaining dollars to those who paid the money in – the taxpayers of Minnesota – instead of scrambling to spend more.
As always, you can reach me at email@example.com. To contact me by phone, call (651) 296-4237. Mail can be sent to Rep. Nick Zerwas, 303 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, Minnesota 55155.
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