Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Can you believe Memorial Day weekend is just a week away? Let’s hope for a nice stretch of warm weather as we put out our docks and plant our gardens.
With just days to go until the legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn, an agreement on how to fund state government for the next two years still has not been reached. Unfortunately, I fear that the lack of a budget agreement at this point means we likely won’t get done on time and will instead be headed to a special session.
I remain frustrated with the lack of progress in negotiations, especially because a major holdup appears to be the governor and Democrats’ unwillingness to back off their proposed $12 billion tax increases. As you’ve heard from me before, when Minnesota has a $1 billion budget surplus, it is completely unnecessary to be burdening Minnesotans with such massive tax increases. I’m hopeful this issue can be resolved and an agreement on a responsible state budget can be reached.
In the meantime, the House has been in session each day this week, debating and passing smaller, individual bills. We will continue to do the same this weekend, as we wait to hear if legislative majorities and the governor have struck a deal on the budget.
In addition, a continuing appropriations bill is being considered that would fund state government in the event of a stalemate at the legislature. I hope this bill isn’t necessary, but it’s important the state is prepared in order to make sure state government’s important services are available if legislators can’t agree on a budget.
Pharmacy Benefits Manager Bill
One of our priorities at the Legislature is to do what we can to reduce the cost of healthcare. An important piece of legislation approved by the legislature this week will help control the cost of prescription medications. This bipartisan bill will improve the oversight of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) by requiring PBMs operating in Minnesota to be licensed by the Commerce Department. This would allow the state to impose requirements in areas including network adequacy and transparency. I believe this bill represents an important step in keeping prescription medication costs in check, and I look forward to the governor signing it.
Proposed Nursing Home Cuts
I’ve written previously about nursing home cuts of $68 million being considered at the Capitol. The proposed cuts – which I am strongly opposed to, especially with our billion dollar budget surplus – is currently part of the ongoing budget negotiations.
Attracting and retaining good staff is the number one challenge for our local nursing homes. In 2015, Republicans led an effort to put something called “value based reimbursement” into law that allowed nursing homes to receive increased funding that was fairly flexible. I know what it has meant to Grand Village in Grand Rapids as they have targeted the funds into higher wages and training for their staff which, in turn, means higher quality care for our seniors.
These cuts are being pushed by House Democrats who apparently believe nursing homes have not been spending the higher reimbursements appropriately. That is absolutely not the case in our district. This cut will hurt facilities’ ability to pay and attract quality employees and caregivers. In turn, this would likely result in the quality of care residents receive taking a hit as well. I’m hopeful legislators can come together and ditch this proposal for the sake of our seniors and aging loved ones.
Click here for a story from last night about Grand Village’s concerns about these potential cuts.
At the Capitol
This week I met Keith Puglisi, pastor of the New Song Alliance Church in Grand Rapids and two church members who visited the Capitol, stopping by to say a prayer for me and legislative leaders. Pretty cool.
While we wait out the budget negotiations, the Minnesota Zoo came to the Capitol with a fun diversion featuring some unusual critters. Never thought I would be petting a Hog Island Boa Constrictor in the Capitol Rotunda!
Please Contact Me
As always, please contact me if you have any questions or concerns. I value your input and enjoy hearing from you.
Have a great weekend,