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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R)

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

President Trump made a campaign promise to ‘drain the swamp’ and eliminate the putrid sludge and corruption that infests our federal government.


With that in mind, I am championing a series of bills that attempt to drain Minnesota’s swamp and eliminate wasteful spending and welfare for politicians.


The first would officially eliminate the Political Contribution Refund (PCR), which allows individual donors to be reimbursed up to $50 per year for their political contributions, while married couples can receive $100 from the state. We stopped collecting these funds two years ago, yet the language itself remains in statute, so I feel the next logical step is to remove all traces of this taxpayer funded nonsense from the books – and prevent $12 million from being wasted on political subsidies - once and for all.


Another bill would repeal the state elections campaign fund, a political welfare program that benefits politicians. It provides public financing of election campaigns for all state offices, including state legislative races. These amounts are allocated among the general account and the party accounts for those races based on $5 ($10 for married joint filers) check-offs made on individual income tax returns and property tax refund claims. The end result is roughly $3,000 to $5,000 per candidate per office, courtesy of Minnesota taxpayers, if the candidate has raised $1,500 in $50 increments. 


Full disclosure: I’ve participated in both of these programs. I’m not proud of it, but I also didn’t want to be at a competitive disadvantage. That said, both of these programs are nonsensical and taxpayers would be better off if they disappeared.


I also want to eliminate the Greater Minnesota Internship Program. Talk about a racket: It spent $174,000 to administer the program – which means paid people to sit around and watch for applications to arrive – then handed out $19,000 worth of tax credits. It needs to go the way of the dodo bird.


There’s also legislation that addresses renter refunds. On average 14.5 percent of a person’s rent is used to help pay property tax obligations for their building. Yet, on average, Minnesota hands out 2.5 percent too much, or 17 percent to individuals’ renter refunds. Remember, these refunds come from a property taxpayer account, and by lowering the rate of refund to 14.5 percent, Minnesota could save roughly $80 million.


Finally, there is MNSure’s and the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) failing to meet state and federal law by ensuring that only people who are qualified actually receive Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare health insurance subsidies. Last year the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA), found that MNsure may have wasted as much as $271 million in taxpayer dollars due to improper payments to ineligible public program enrollees. And that was just a four month sample.


DHS now tells us the number of ineligible enrollees has dropped significantly, but I tend to trust the nonpartisan legislative auditor more than I do the bureaucratic spinsters within DHS. This is why I propose spending $400,000 for additional investigators within OLA and require them to monitor DHS staff and ensure that the $10 billion in state and federal welfare funding is being used on legal Minnesota citizens that truly need it.


Join me next week when I’ll review my proposals that would address local government swamp draining and better protection of the taxpayer!


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