We are in the waning days of the 2014 legislative session, but still have some important items to address before we adjourn no later than May 19.
The most prominent item of business still hanging in the balance is a capital investment bill, aka the bonding bill. This legislation borrows money to pay for construction projects all across Minnesota. In a recent email, I wrote that late in the 2013 session we agreed to bond for $846 million in 2014.
We are still working with that total in mind, but it now appears Gov. Mark Dayton and Democrat leaders will look to add to that total by using around $200 million in cash from our state surplus. There is a key difference between bonding and spending cash: The former requires a supermajority to pass, meaning the finished product will need to generate support from the minority to gain approval.
Local projects remain under consideration for inclusion in the final bill, including funding for work on the library in Perham. There also are projects at the colleges in Fergus Falls and Wadena in the mix. Disappointingly, funding for a trail between Pelican Rapids and Perham is not in the House’s latest version of the bill. We will see what happens with this legislation as it makes its way through the process.
One thing that should have been a top priority for the majority this session but has been left aside is finding fixes for widespread problems with Minnesota’s new state-run health insurance program – MNsure. Last week, MNsure announced that once again would be delaying its enrollment deadline for some Minnesotans who qualify. MNsure cost us $160 million just to set up and it continues to underperform, with slow enrollment and projections for a $5 million shortfall for next year. The long-term sustainability of this program is a serious concern, especially if the younger, healthier demographics needed to keep MNsure afloat remain reluctant to sign up.
Stay in touch as we head into the final days of this session. As happens many years, there were rumors that we would be adjourning a week early this year. It is proving to be just that: rumors. In any case, I will let you know what transpires.