The Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis basks in the chill of 28 degrees below zero one morning earlier this week.
Another busy week is coming to a close at the Capitol as we near completion of the first month in the 2019 legislative session.
Things have been pretty quiet on the House floor since bills are still making their way through the preliminary stages of the legislative process. Here is a look at two other issues that made headlines this week:
Child care fraud
Concerns remain regarding the allegations of upwards of $100 million of Minnesota Childcare Assistance Program funds (aka, taxpayer dollars) being provided to fraudulent childcare facilities and possibly going overseas to terrorist groups. No fewer than four data practices requests were filed to the Department of Human Services during the last several months of the Dayton administration to seek information on this subject, but DHS failed to respond to any of those inquiries.
A fifth data practices request has now been filed in the hopes that new Gov. Tim Walz and his administration, including new DHS Commissioner Tony Lourey, may be more cooperative in helping us learn the size and scope of this issue.
Friends and family I talk with back in our district are outraged by this immoral behavior, and for good reason. We won’t stand for it and demand answers. It’s an affront to all the hardworking taxpayers that a government could be so reckless in allocating taxpayer funds. These dollars are intended to help defray the costs of childcare for working families and single parents so they can go to work and support their families.
We need to keep asking questions and insist that the new governor and commissioner take action to investigate how this happened, how we can prevent it from continuing, and whether people need to face charges. Fraud and abuse are among the things I detest most in government, but the fact this situation adds a layer of potentially directing tax dollars to terrorists puts it right over the top.
I am confident the new governor and commissioner will respond accordingly and prevent this fraud from continuing. While we await a response from DHS on the data practices request, we can look forward to an upcoming report from the nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Auditor. The OLA has spent the last several months investigating this issue and we expect a report to be issued in the coming month. I am interested to see what is revealed.
Paid Family and Medical Leave
A bill regarding paid family and medical leave has been introduced in the House. While the merits of this proposal are understood, this proposal is the latest example of government overreach. In this case, the bill would raise taxes on all Minnesota businesses and workers to create another cumbersome program and layer of bureaucracy for the benefit of an estimated 1 percent of the population. We still don’t know the exact costs involved in building this new system at a time many businesses already are providing their employees with great benefits.
One unintended consequence of creating this system is that it may disincentivize businesses from providing benefits currently being offered, causing some to scale back their packages to meet the minimum benefits in this bill.
Instead of creating this massive, expensive new program, we should focus on creating incentive for all businesses to provide strong benefits. Health Savings Accounts that employers and employees can pay into for leave benefits could be a much simpler, cost-effective part of the solution.
Stay tuned as we continue looking at these and other issues in St. Paul. Until next time, have a great Super Bowl weekend and I hope all is well with your family as we recover from the polar vortex and make our way into what looks like a balmy couple of days ahead.