Hello from St. Paul,
Yesterday, the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee heard our bill, HF 3714, that would connect the City of Luverne with the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System. The proposal would appropriate $1.5 million in capital investment bonds to help pay for the connection to the city’s south water treatment facility. Luverne's Mayor, Pat Baustian, and Lewis and Clark Water Systems Executive Director Troy Larson provided testimony to explain the project.
As you know, Lewis and Clark has been one of my top priorities as your state representative and we have made great progress on providing a reliable water source to southwestern Minnesota. The bill will be considered for possible inclusion in the House capital investment bill that will be unveiled by the committee in the weeks ahead.
REINSURANCE BILL MOVING FORWARD
An extension of a successful Republican health insurance reform is moving forward in House committees this week. Prior to the Minnesota Premium Security Plan – also known as reinsurance - becoming law, people purchasing their health insurance on the individual market were seeing the average premium rates increasing by double digits every year, including nearly 60 percent for 2017. This was due to a large number of people in poor health who were very high users. This stressed the entire system and forced the remaining members of the health insurance pool to pay higher rates.
Reinsurance kicked in for sick Minnesotans once they have reached a certain level of health care needs and expenses. Under our law the state covers that amount, which provides a ceiling total that the person can put on the entire insurance market.
The plan has been a continued success. Many health care professionals had said we were in a health insurance ‘death spiral,’ but once reinsurance took effect, premium costs began to hold flat and, in many cases, declined. Prices are not yet reasonable or affordable, but rates would be much worse, if you can imagine, without it.
I’m hopeful the House will move a clean reinsurance bill forward that is free of non-reinsurance related provisions. It is very important that we continue to help people who purchase their health insurance on the individual and the small group market. With prices on everything from gasoline to food to energy spiraling out of control, residents cannot afford to pay double digit health insurance premium increases again.
LOCAL BUSINESS TAX RELIEF BILL MOVES FORWARD IN SENATE
The Minnesota Senate, on a strong bipartisan basis, recently approved legislation that would eliminate Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust fund debt and prevent taxes from being increased by 15% or more on local businesses.
Minnesota needs to replenish its Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund by more than $1 billion. Available state surplus funds could be used for this purpose, as could federal COVID relief funding that totals more than $1 billion. If neither of these pots of money are utilized, the default repayment is tax increases on local business owners by 15% or more.
Last month, Governor Walz’s employment commissioner said March 15 was the deadline for the lawmakers to pass legislation and prevent significant tax increases on every Minnesota employer. With days to go before the deadline hits, I voted for a procedural tactic that would have brought the bill up for a vote that could have put it in front of the Governor today. Unfortunately, that effort failed with no assured plan for how job creators are going to avoid such a disruption to workers benefits.
With a $9.3 billion surplus, we should be able to handle this problem very easily without raising anyone’s taxes. By this time next week, I hope the House moves legislation that will prevent taxes from being increases on Minnesota’s business owners. I’ll be sure to keep you updated.
Have a good weekend,