It is a humbling honor to continue serving the people of District 29A and I am happy to be back at work in St. Paul now that the Legislature has begun the 2019 session.
The first week was been spent taking care of housekeeping items. This week, which is Week 2, committee meetings have been taking place so we can get down to the business of discussing the issues and hearing bill proposals.
My committee responsibilities for the new biennium include being selected as the lead Republican on the House’s Subcommittee on Local Government. In addition, I am serving on Taxes, and Property and Local Tax committees.
The big responsibility this session is to set a new two-year state budget. We also must find ways to get a grip on health care costs and provide tax relief to Minnesota families and job creators. I have been busy meeting with constituents in preparation for the session and the input that was provided will help me in my efforts to serve as a voice for the people in our area.
On the subject of health care, House Republicans hosted a press conference this week to urge the new Democrat House majority and Gov. Tim Walz to not raise health care costs on Minnesotans by restoring a 2-percent tax levied on most patient services in Minnesota.
The so-called sick tax applies to procedures such as baby deliveries, chemotherapy treatments, routine doctor visits, emergency room visits, and more. The tax, which was eliminated as part of bipartisan legislation passed by a Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton in 2011, is set to expire starting Jan. 1, 2020.
It is estimated that restoring the tax would result in a more than $600 million increase on health care costs for Minnesotans next year alone.
Our health care system is a mess and it’s sickening. I hear over and over from people who are just being crushed by unaffordable health care costs. Allowing the sick tax to expire would provide some relief for people.
Free-market health reforms to drive competitive pricing for health insurance, along with eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in our state system, are just some of the ways we can replace the sick-tax revenue without having to restore it. We still must to take care of people who need assistance and we can accomplish that without extending this unnecessary tax.
Recently, Walz called it a “nonstarter” to end the tax, and House Health and Human Services Finance Division Chair Tina Liebling, D-Rochester, said it was “essential” to restore the tax or replace its revenue.
Last year, numbers from the Minnesota Department of Human Services budget director indicated that Minnesota is losing tens of millions of dollars per month by failing to implement periodic data matching, which helps verify program eligibility for Minnesota public programs. The DHS has acknowledged that fraud within the childcare assistance program is a “big problem,” costing the state tens of millions of dollars, and the non-partisan legislative auditor has released multiple reports detailing hundreds of millions in public program benefits going to recipients who are not eligible.
Constituent outreach remains a top priority during the upcoming session. People from District 29A are welcome to call my office at (651) 296-4336, or email email@example.com to get in touch. My office always is welcome to constituents, so please set up an appointment to meet if you want to discuss any issues. Health care is likely to be an ongoing topic of discussion this session, so I likely will be back to touch as things unfold.