There are just two weeks left of the 2015 legislative session. During this time, conference committees will be meeting to finalize legislation for the House and Senate. We will be meeting daily on the House floor.
Met Council discussion
I was pleased to serve as a panelist for the Dakota County Regional Chamber legislative breakfast to discuss the role of the Met Council. I was joined by Rep. Linda Runbeck (R—Circle Pines), Adam Duininck, Met Council Chair, and Tom Egan, Dakota County Commissioner. I have been actively working to find bipartisan solutions to bring people together to create policies that ensure that the Met Council is providing effective and appropriate regional governance. I was pleased to hear that Rep. Runbeck, chair of the sub-committee on Met Council Oversight and Transparency, supports my bill to create a bipartisan Blue Ribbon commission to make recommendations to improve the Met Council.
Ghosts of budgets past
The Health and Human Services (HHS) bill passed off the House floor last week with no bipartisan support. The reason? This proposal seeks to balance the state’s budget on shaking savings and cuts to HHS that will raise the cost of health care for all Minnesotans.
The GOP plan cuts the health and human services budget by $1.152 billion. First, they eliminate MinnesotaCare, our state’s innovative health care program for working Minnesotans for whom private insurance is out of reach, but who make too much money to quality for Medical Assistance. Since 1992, MinnesotaCare has been an important part of our state’s low rate of uninsured, and for helping to bring stability to the health care marketplace in both private and public plans. Under the GOP budget plan, more than 100,000 low-income, working Minnesotans will lose their health insurance—forcing families to cut off care or rely on emergency room services for health care—two well-known drivers of health care costs.
In addition to raising the rates of uninsured, the GOP plan is also relies on shaky savings targets. The majority is budgeting $300 millions of “savings” that will likely never materialize. In fact, House nonpartisan research staff has said that the claim of $300 million in savings in the bill would only add up to about $17 million in real dollars. MPR ran an analysis of the proposal and determined that the Republican plan leaves a $283 million hole in the budget. You can read more here: http://blogs.mprnews.org/capitol-view/2015/05/poligraph-dfl-correct-about-hhs-budget-hole/
By once again relying on shifts and gimmicks to “balance a budget,” the House Majority puts the entire state budget on very shaky ground. Minnesotans have learned that budgets built on one time money and false savings included will lead Minnesota back into deficit, costing the state more money in the long run. Despite a nearly $2 billion projected surplus, the HHS proposal will put those with disabilities and nursing homes at risk, raising costs for everyone within the health care system. I am hopeful that the final HHS bill includes more balance and sound budgeting and will garner bipartisan support.
Wholesale gas tax amendment
Last week, I voted against an amendment that would increase Minnesota’s wholesale gas tax. While I do agree that there is a growing need for dedicated, long-term funding for roads & bridges, I do not support the wholesale gas tax because I am concerned about the regressivity of this form of tax. The amendment did not prevail, and the legislature will continue to debate solutions for state’s transportation needs.