To the Editor:
I'd like to relay what's happening during the special session of the legislature. First of all, progress is slow and I share your frustrations. We meet in session every third day. Conference committees meet during most of the intervening days to try to reach agreement on the major issues. While some progress is being made a wide gulf continues to separate the House and Senate in some areas.
We have to work together in a bipartisan manner. I have been meeting in my office with DFL legislators about coming up with a transportation bill. We are making progress. But we need more reaching across the aisle to reach agreements.
Much of our agenda is set by leadership in both bodies and by the Governor's Office. Personally I think that there soon can be enough money on the table to reach agreement. We just need to come together. One reason that this is difficult is that requirements keep changing. For example, when regular session started there was a demand for a 2.5 percent increase a year in education. Eventually the House position grew to 4.5 percent a year. But now that isn't enough. The Senate actually raised its position to 5 percent growth per year. This makes it very hard to reach an agreement.
There was much concern raised over eligibility cuts to Minnesota Care. The House position will be to cover nearly all eligible MNCare recipients. The Senate responded by seeking more funding for other areas. While health and human services spending is scheduled to increase by 18 percent, the House offer is now more than a 15 percent increase while the Senate upped its offer to a 20 percent increase.
Usually in negotiations one side is low and the other high. If one side moves to increase the other proposes a decrease. Eventually, a compromise is reached. Governor Pawlenty and the House Republicans made a significant offer to raise revenue in the tax bill through a Health Care Impact "fee." The Senate response in special session was not to lower their proposal but instead to actually raise their revenue amount. In other words, the House raised it's revenue and the Senate did as well. It's hard to reach an agreement that way.
Neither side is always pure in its intentions and very principled people are involved. But once again, the money can be there to reach agreement. Each side has to want to get it done. I know that I'm ready and willing to do what it takes to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of the people.
District 18B, State Representative