Things are moving quickly at the Capitol this week. I’ve been busy attending committee meetings, reviewing legislation, and meeting with groups and constituents to hear about the issues.
Last week, I received my first budget forecast briefing from Minnesota Management & Budget (MMB) as a legislator. The report on Minnesota’s economy and budget situation was good; the projected deficit for 2014-2015 is now only $627 million. Two years ago, this number was projected to be over $4 billion. Fiscal policies that promote new jobs and solid budget management under the Republican majority in 2011 helped make this happen. In the last two years, Minnesota has added tens of thousands of jobs and we’ve nearly made up for the losses we incurred during the recession.
If the current operating budget were to be left untouched, we would have a positive $782 million surplus in 2016-2017, up from $263 million in the last forecast. Minnesota is on the right path and I oppose proposals to drastically increase taxes in order to grow government. This is the wrong recipe for our businesses and our families.
Health Exchange Bill
The Democrat Insurance Exchange bill was passed after five hours of debate on Monday night with only one Republican supporter. The bill makes the most significant changes to Minnesota’s health care industry in a generation and brings Obamacare’s costly and infringing mandates to Minnesota. After the Affordable Care Act was passed, each state had the option of building its own insurance exchange (a website run by a new government super agency in St. Paul) or defer to the federal exchange. Half of U.S. states have decided against the state-based exchange, including most of our Midwest neighbors, but Governor Dayton and DFL leaders have imposed this new system on all of us. My main concerns with the bill (which spends over $100 million just to set up the new agency) are cost, privacy and choice.
I am concerned that the bill does nothing to guarantee our health care quality will improve, insurance premiums will be lower, more people will be covered, or that we will see savings in the health system. If the new agency could guarantee these issues were solved, I would be more open to supporting it. For now, the bill goes to Conference Committee and will come back to the House for final passage later this month.
U of M Regents Selection
Last night the House and Senate held a joint convention to select members of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. As a member of the House Higher Education Finance & Policy Committee, selecting leaders for the University is an important task for the legislature.
Alternative Gun Legislation
I will be supporting an alternative piece of legislation this session that would prohibit felons from possessing ammunition, creates mandatory minimums for violent felons that are convicted of possessing firearms on a second or subsequent offense, and provides felony penalties for individuals that engage in repeated false reports of lost or stolen firearms. This important legislation is bipartisan and also supported by the Minnesota Sheriffs Association and gun-rights advocates.
Rep. Tama Theis