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Minnesota Legislature

Legislative News and Views - Rep. Joe McDonald (R)

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News from the House

Friday, April 05, 2019

Dear Neighbor,

Omnibus finance bills which eventually will shape our state’s next two-year budget have been the main subject of committee discussions this week and it is interesting to see where priorities lie.

For instance, the Health and Human Services omnibus bill will raise health care costs, cut funding for nursing homes, and cause premium rates to spike next year. Here is a quick video clip of a committee discussion regarding nursing home cuts House Democrats are proposing.

In the coming days we expect to conduct a full review of the Democrats’ tax bill. Expect it to include tax hikes beyond what we already know about, from the increase of 20 cents per gallon to the gas tax to the health care tax they want to bring back. All this at a time when the state has a $1 billion surplus. Stay tuned.

Look for more on the budget as we get through all the various finance proposals and prepare to start taking them up for votes on the floor in coming weeks. I’m looking at what I can support and what the people of District 29A are asking me to support. It is too bad that good provisions that support worthy priorities are being overwhelmed by questionable expenditures leading to billions in spending increases, again, at a time the state has a $1 billion surplus.

For now, on a separate budget subject, I would like to pass along some information regarding a proposal House Republicans have assembled in an attempt to crack down on child care fraud. The package is in response to a report from the nonpartisan legislative auditor that found fraud within Minnesota’s Childcare Assistance Program to be widespread and pervasive. The proposal has five key goals: Increasing consequences for committing fraud, providing better fraud-prevention controls on the front end, aiding investigations, reforming eligibility and increasing oversight.

One noteworthy bill that came to the House floor this week is highly concerning. On Monday, Democrats approved (on a party-line vote) a bill that would allow people convicted of a variety of crimes such as murder, drive-by-shooting, felony-level stalking, child abuse, and solicitation of children to engage in sexual conduct, to work in a variety of positions that put them in contact with vulnerable citizens as personal care attendants, providers of home and community-based care services for Minnesotans with disabilities, adult day services, non-emergency medical transportation drivers, and more.

This is not hyperbole or rhetoric. This is real.

The bill would require the Department of Human Services to consider granting a set-aside or variance to anyone who otherwise would have been disqualified as a result of a variety of serious felony and criminal convictions that are more than 20 years old. Length of time aside, there is no rehabilitation requirement included. It is perplexing why the Democrats would be so irresponsible as to allow people who have been convicted of horrific crimes to be in contact with vulnerable people.

On a final note, I want to thank the governor for delivering his State of the State Address Wednesday in the House Chamber. His message focused on hope and writing a new story in Minnesota and he even mentioned Delano in regard to Highway 12 safety, all good things. However, I reject his notion that we need to raise the gas tax by 20 cents per gallon to improve roads such as Highway 12 in our area.

We all agree roads and bridges need to be improved in our state, so let’s show it is the priority we say it is by providing more funding. House Republicans showed during the last biennium that we can do more for transportation without raising taxes. In fact, in 2017 we delivered a historic influx of funding by directing sales taxes already being paid on the purchase of auto parts toward roads and bridges. The total package we developed provided $6 billion more for transportation over the next 10 years without an increase in the gas tax or license tab fees.

Let’s look for more of that innovative reform before we even think about taking more from the taxpayers. It all comes down to priorities.

Regards,

Joe

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