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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R)

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Update from St. Paul

Friday, March 29, 2019

Thanks to visitors from the Farm Credit Service (above) and Prairie Land Library (below) for recently coming to my legislative office to talk about the issues.

Dear Neighbor,

The House on Thursday provided final approval of a bill to replenish the state’s Disaster Contingency Account with $10 million, sending it to the governor for enactment. The account was drained when the state responded with relief for flooding events in Brainerd and Duluth last year. While it appears as though an ideal melt of our snow pack may spare us the worst-case, widespread devastation from flooding was earlier projected, some areas are still experiencing significant damage and we need to make sure resources are available to help those people. It is good we are replenishing the disaster account so it can serve its purpose of quickly delivering relief funds without a special legislative session having to be called. Whether it’s flooding this spring or storm damage in the months to come, it’s good we are making funding available to deliver immediate relief.

In other news:

Cracking down on fraud

House Republicans have developed a comprehensive proposal to crack down on fraud in Minnesota’s public programs, with an emphasis on the Child Care Assistance Program. The legislative 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. I am a co-author of this bill (H.F. 2694) and the proposal has five key goals designed to combat fraud from a number of angles:

  1. Increased consequences for committing fraud: Increase penalties and consequences for committing fraud to send a strong message to fraudsters that the state will not tolerate this criminal behavior.
  2. Provider Controls: Provide better controls on the front end to prevent fraud from occurring in the first place. Simply put, it is too easy for those who want to do wrong to defraud Minnesota taxpayers.
  3. Investigations & Prosecutions: Give additional tools to investigators to aid in their investigations, and to prosecutors to ensure fraudsters are brought to justice.
  4. Eligibility Reforms: Eliminate eligibility for those found to have committed fraud, require enhanced eligibility checks from the Department of Human Services, and direct savings from eligibility checks to the Health Care Access Fund.
  5. Oversight: The legislative auditor recommended that the Office of Inspector General become an independent entity. The proposal includes that recommendation.

The Department of Human Services needs to do far better in ensuring the integrity of the Child Care Assistance Program and the proposed measures provide guard rails to not only make sure we are being good stewards of tax dollars, but to also help make sure assistance is getting to the families who need it most. This is a bipartisan package and it should be on the fast track to enactment.

House Dems follow gov's lead on tax increases

House Democrats unveiled their budget proposal this week. They are looking for huge increases in taxing and spending, but exactly what that means remains a bit of a mystery because they have not shared some of the details that will let us know exactly what their plan would cost taxpayers.

What House Democrats did confirm is they are following the governor by proposing to raise our gas tax by 20 cents per gallon and bring back the provider tax on health care … all at a time our state has a $1 billion surplus.

Look for more as details of the House plan emerge and after we’ve had a chance to dig into the Senate Republican majority’s proposal, which was made public Thursday and includes zero tax increases. It will be interesting to do a side-by-side-by-side comparison of the three plans.