We are in the midst of Week 2 in the 2019 legislative session and much of the focus has been on introducing new bills and getting our new committees up to speed.
I have introduced 11 bills so far this year. Two of them have been referred to committees and I have requested hearings for them.
H.F. 76 is a bill I am awaiting a hearing on to protect people from suffering a financial loss when they are required to install a test well during the process of applying for an irrigation permit and later are denied the permit. Specifically, the bill says “If the state requires the installation of a test well for a water appropriation permit for irrigation and denies the permit, the state must pay the costs of the well.”
The other bill ready for a hearing is H.F. 32, which would prohibit payment of certain indirect costs from Legacy Amendment funds. The Legacy Amendment already is rife with waste and this bill would protect at least some of our tax dollars from being siphoned off along the way to a project.
On another subject, House Republicans conducted a press conference this week and urged House Democrats and Gov. Walz to not raise health care costs on Minnesotans by restoring the 2-percent sick tax that was set to expire. This tax is applied to everything from baby deliveries, chemotherapy treatments, routine doctor visits, emergency room visits and more beyond. Democrats have said they want to restore it beyond its Jan. 1, 2020 sunset date, resulting in a more than $600 million increase on health care costs for Minnesotans next year alone.
It’s interesting that Democrats spent all fall talking about reducing health care costs any chance they got and now they’re talking about extending taxes on health care at a time we have a $1.5 billion surplus. Minnesotans deserve better and tax increases should not even be up for discussion. If Democrats don’t want to tap into the surplus for tax relief, there is plenty of waste, fraud and abuse in this state we can crack down on to make up the difference.
Speaking of cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse, we could start by responding to the rampant fraud that appears to be taking place in the Child Care Assistance Program. A Fox 9 investigation into the issue last May estimated that as much as a $100 million a year is being stolen by corrupt daycare center operators who are overbilling the state. Sources also have evidence showing some of that public money – our tax dollars – is being funneled to terrorists.
House Republicans in the majority took immediate action last year with a bill that was enacted to develop a system that would help county licensors recognize and prevent CCAP fraud. House Republicans also filed a data practices request with the Department of Human Services to learn more about the scope and scale of this fraud, but this data request remains unfulfilled some eight months later.
Now, as the 2019 session begins, it appears the new House Democrat majority is going to sweep this issue aside. House Republicans will continue digging into the issue to make sure CCAP is functioning as intended. We need to cut out the abuse to ensure assistance is reaching the honest, hard-working Minnesotans this program is designed to help.
Look for more news as developments occur and, as always, your feedback is welcome.