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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Linda Runbeck (R)

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Legislative Update from Rep. Linda Runbeck

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Last week, we lost three Minnesota service members in a tragic helicopter crash. I extend my deepest sympathies and prayers to the families of the crew members and their fellow brothers and sisters in the Minnesota National Guard. May they rest in peace. 

November Budget Forecast

Last Thursday, it was announced that Minnesota is projected to have a $1.3 billion budget surplus for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. 

The large surplus is good news and proof of a thriving economy powered by Minnesota taxpayers and tax cuts at the state and federal level. It also means that state government is taking too much of your hard-earned money.

While Governor Walz and Democrats will look to spend the surplus on programs intended to grow the size of government, I am committed to returning as much of the budget surplus as possible to taxpayers through additional tax relief. We could also look into sending rebate checks to Minnesotans similar to the “Jesse Checks” that Governor Ventura employed in the late 1990s.

One thing is certain, this news should mean tax hikes are off the table for the 2020 session.

Department of Human Services Hearing

The Minnesota House Health and Human Services Finance Committee recently held its first hearing on problems that have plagued the Department of Human Services (DHS) this summer and fall. The agency, which has seen its commissioner and assistant commissioner resign this year, is in disarray.

 Here’s a quick recap of what we’ve learned about DHS in the last six months:

  • The Legislative Auditor reported on “pervasive fraud” in the childcare system. The DHS inspector general was placed on investigate leave for her role in this – and it still getting paid.
  • Employees have been fired, mistreated, or retaliated against for raising concerns about agency practices.
  • DHS owes the federal government $30 million due to overpayments to two tribal governments.
  • DHS overpaid chemical dependency providers, which costs taxpayers $70 million.
  • DHS paid out $3 million for people who were already dead.
  • DHS broke the law more than 200 times on contracts totaling more than $52 million.
  • DHS is now being scrutinized for not accommodating employees with disabilities.

At last week’s hearing, the committee received an update from the agency’s new commissioner on “progress” she’s making in addressing the problems at DHS. During her testimony, the commissioner revealed that no one has been disciplined for tens of millions in overpayments to tribes, and was reluctant to endorse our calls for a full-scale audit of all DHS spending.

A full, top-to-bottom audit of the agency would help us get a better understanding of the depth of the mess at DHS and I am concerned by the new commissioner’s resistance to this idea.

It’s clear that accountability is needed at the agency and it is frustrating that more hasn’t been done by leaders at DHS to address the myriad of issues impacting their work.

Minnesota taxpayers deserve much, much better than this.

Staying in Touch

As always, I encourage you to reach out to me to share your questions and concerns regarding state government. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-2907 or via email at rep.linda.runbeck@house.mn.

Linda

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