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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Tony Albright (R)

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Legislative Update: State Budget Surplus

Monday, December 09, 2019

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Rep. Tony Albright Header

December 9, 2019

Dear Friends, 

Last week we lost three heroic Minnesotans in a tragic helicopter crash. Our prayers tonight are with the families of the crew members and their fellow brother and sisters in the Minnesota National Guard. May they rest in peace. 

State Budget Surplus

On Thursday, it was announced that Minnesota has a $1.3 billion budget surplus for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. 

The large surplus is great news, proof of the thriving economy powered by Minnesota taxpayers, but it also means we are taking far too much out of the wallets of Minnesotans. One thing we can do once session begins is to repeal the sick tax, which adds a 1.8% tax to the cost of most medical procedures, to help Minnesotans with the cost of their health care.

This news should also mean tax hikes are off the table for the 2020 session. We need to instead look to give back as much of this surplus to the taxpayers as possible. 

DHS Hearing 

Last Monday, the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Finance Committee held its first hearing on the problems that have plagued the Department of Human Services this summer and fall. The agency, which has seen its commissioner and assistant commissioner resign this year, is in disarray.

 Here’s a recap of what we’ve learned about DHS in the last six months:

  • The Legislative Auditor reported on “pervasive fraud” in the childcare system. The DHS inspector general was placed on investigate leave for her role in this – and it still getting paid.
  • Employees have been fired, mistreated, or retaliated against for raising concerns about agency practices.
  • DHS owes the federal government $30 million due to overpayments to two tribal governments.
  • DHS overpaid chemical dependency providers, which costs taxpayers $70 million.
  • DHS paid out $3 million for people who were already dead.
  • DHS broke the law more than 200 times on contracts totaling more than $52 million.
  • DHS is now being scrutinized for not accommodating employees with disabilities.

A full deep-dive audit is necessary to get to the root of these problems and the commissioner was very reluctant to agree to this despite Governor Walz calling for a forensic audit twice in the last year. 

It was also highly disappointing to hear no one had been held accountable for the mistakes revealed this year and that it certainly didn't seem like accountability was coming. 

In order to fix DHS we need to hold those accountable who mismanaged over $100 million in taxpayer dollars and make sure it never happens again. I will continue to join my colleagues, and Governor Walz, in calling for a full audit as a way to bring back accountability to the state's largest agency. 

Please Stay in Touch 

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas! Even though the legislature is not in session, please continue to contact me to discuss any matters to which I can be of assistance. You can call me at 651-296-5185 or contact me via email at rep.tony.albright@house.mn.

Have a great week!

Tony

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