It was a big week here at the Minnesota Legislature. Among the highlights were the passage of the Health and Human Services Omnibus bill, the K-12 Omnibus Finance bill, and the Omnibus Tax Bill. I wanted to share some thoughts on those bills, and the impacts they could have on our communities.
Health and Human Services
The only budget area Democrats chose to cut this session was in Health and Human Services. While I was glad to see Democrats talking about starting to bend down the cost curve and get HHS spending under control, the cuts that were made were without any meaningful reforms that would reduce future costs, and were made indiscriminately in areas that could have negative consequences on the state of Minnesota.
Part of the $150 million dollar cut to the HHS budget was $26 million from nursing homes and senior care centers. Minnesota has an aging population. By 2020, it's estimated that we will have more seniors in retirement than students in our K-12 education system. With these kind of demographic realities, it doesn't make sense to be cutting funding from senior care centers.
The Republican budget we passed in 2011 made a promise to seniors. Unfortunately, Democrats reneged on that promise to the tune of a $26 million dollar cut from what Republicans had set under law to give to the nursing homes and senior care centers.
Again, I applaud the majority for finally coming to realize that we must get our spending under control, but this is simply the wrong way to do it. We must make serious reforms that address the cost drivers in our health care system, and find ways to deliver health care services to our citizens more efficiently and more effectively, rather than cutting from our most vulnerable. With 100 nursing homes at risk of closure around the state, it's irresponsible and risky to be making these types of cuts.
As a member of the Education Finance committee, it was great to see months of work and collaboration come to the floor in the form of the K-12 Omnibus bill.
I ultimately voted no on the K-12 bill because it removes graduation standard testing, and dilutes the meaning of a students’ diploma. It also grows the Minnesota Department of Education, adding layers of bureaucracy in the form of “regional centers of excellence” rather than adding more funding that would go directly to classrooms.
Worse, the bill has a $1 billion dollar negative tail, meaning we will be faced with a funding shortfall in future years, even though the Democrats are already raising $3 billion dollars in new taxes and fees.
I gave a speech on the house floor that summed up my thoughts on the K-12 bill, which you can watch by clicking here.
On Wednesday Democrats passed the largest tax increase in the last thirty years. Included were income tax hikes that will hit nearly every tax bracket -- rich and poor alike. When you take into account the fees raised under the Democrats proposed budget, it amounts to nearly $3 billion dollars, or about $550 for every man, woman, and child in the state of Minnesota.
Due to reductions in the income tax brackets, thousands of Minnesotans making even as little as $21,651 per year could be vaulted in to a new tax bracket, raising their income taxes to pay for billions of dollars in new spending. This bracket reduction brings in nearly as much money as the new 4th tier on the wealthiest Minnesotans. These in addition to the sky-high new taxes on alcohol, cigarettes, sports memorabilia, among others were just some of the reasons I could not support this bill. I don't think we should be asking the hardworking taxpayers at nearly every income level to be paying more when we still have so much wasteful spending in nearly every budget area.
The drastic tax increases are especially upsetting when you consider the wasteful spending that is in each of the omnibus bills. Between the House and the Senate, there is literally millions of dollars in wasteful spending. Here are just some of the examples:
· Tree Museum - $100,000
· Bee Habitat - $300,000
· Bus Passes for Teens - $2,500,000
· Snow Making Equipment - $3,400,000
· Minneapolis Sculpture Garden - $7,000,000
· Exotic Overseas Trips for Artists - $840,000|
· New Office of Broadband Development - $500,000
The Minnesota House GOP is doing a “30 Days of Wasteful Spending” project on their
Facebook page. To see the full list so far, and to follow along, please “like” their page by
Lowest Growth in Spending in Half a Century
Last week, we received a memo from House Research with some great news. Last biennium, the GOP budget represented the lowest spending rate increase in over 50 years. I’m proud of the fact that we were able to limit spending in what was really an historic way. Moreover, the results speak for themselves; Minnesota’s economy is on the rebound, creating billions in new revenue and tens of thousands of new jobs. It’s unfortunate that the Democrat majorities wish to dramatically reverse the work we’ve done and skyrocket growth in Government.
As always, if you are in Saint Paul and would like to schedule a meeting, I hope you'll contact my office. You can reach me at Rep.Glenn.Gruenhagen@house.mn or by phone at 651-296-4229. I always welcome your input and comments about the budget bills or anything else going on at the legislature. It helps me better represent you and our district here in Saint Paul.
Have a great weekend,