To the editor:
There are some new developments regarding both the capital investment bill which borrows money to fund projects all across Minnesota, as well as an effort to change the way we provide medical assistance to those on state programs.
As for the $1.2 billion borrowing bill, the House and Senate both passed versions of it and then a conference committee met to reconcile differences between the two. The conference committee got its work done in short order and then presented the bill to the Legislature for re-passage.
In an unusual - if not unprecedented - move, Gov. Tim Pawlenty sent a message to the Legislature before we voted on the bill, indicating he would veto the bill because it is too expensive and lacks priorities. The House majority still voted to pass the bill and it appeared as if the Senate would follow suit and then send the bill to the governor for him to make good on his veto promise.
But then the Senate decided not to send the bill to its certain veto and held it back. Now apparently, some real negotiating is underway in search for a bipartisan agreement. Indications are much of the fluff – like sculpture gardens in Minneapolis – will be eliminated and the overall price tag will be reduced to an amount much closer to the governor's $685 million recommendation.
This would leave us with a bill that funds the essentials like flood mitigation in the Red River Valley. A number of important local projects also warrant inclusion: building the new Tower Street bridge to clear up traffic and make streets safer in Fergus Falls, expanding a trash incinerator to create more jobs in Perham, replacing a roof at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls, and completing a trail linking Battle Lake to Glendalough State Park.
If a deal is struck, we will have an opportunity to vote on a new bill that is closer to what many of us wanted all along: smaller, more affordable within our budget guidelines and focused on the essentials.
As for the medical assistance, the governor vetoed a bill to extend the General Assistance Medical Care bill soon after its passage because he wants an uncompensated medical care fix to be included in a broader budget agreement.
I respect his decision and will uphold his veto if the majority moves on an override attempt (maybe next week). Minnesota is the only state in the country with this GAMC program and we need to enact real reform because continued growth in the current system unsustainable.
A number of GAMC participants are eligible for other existing programs and we need to find a way of making sure our citizens – like veterans – are covered by the appropriate “umbrella.” Discussions continue in order to make the bill worthy of bipartisan support. My goal is to see that genuine needs of our citizens are taken care of, but that job can be done more efficiently by eliminating duplication and bureaucracy. I look forward to working with the governor and other legislators to craft a bill with greater reform and cost containment.
Finally, I just wanted to pass along an update from the e-mail I sent last week regarding an attempt to pass legislation that would have been detrimental to utilities companies and their stakeholders. The damaging language was eliminated, so our companies and investors are safe for now.
Things are constantly changing with all of these bills, but I will do my best to keep you up to speed.
Rep. Bud Nornes