If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Democrats are reporting that if Minnesota moves our working poor from one of our state programs to Medicaid, we will receive seven dollars from the federal government for every dollar we put in.  If that were true, it may make a lot of sense to do that.  We pay in to federal programs more than we get back now, and this might be a way for Minnesota to catch up to other states in terms of how much we get back.  Hospital administrators hearing this claim are justified in asking that we do this to help them keep their doors open.

If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  The problem is that the feds don’t give us a 7:1 return on our state dollars.  They’ll give us a 1:1 match.  That’s what federal law says.  Democrats need to correct these claims and have an honest discussion about costs, benefits and drawbacks to opting in to Medicaid.

For example, did you know that once we sign up for federal healthcare, we lose all ability to reform and innovate with this patient population?  By signing up for this “free” federal money we are obligate under maintenance of effort rules to provide exactly the same care folks get in Mississippi. Minnesota is a world leader in providing high quality, low cost healthcare. We should lead the nation in healthcare reforms, not federalize our state programs like GAMC and MNCare.  Our new coordinated care model of wellness provides hope for the poor and sick that they may someday become well and productive again. Let’s build on what works and fix what doesn’t.  Abandoning Minnesota healthcare for an unaffordable, unaccountable and unsustainable federal plan will cost the state more money and take a great big step backwards in patient care.

In this time of fiscal crisis, we can not afford to politicize healthcare decisions or use numbers that are just plain made up.

Minnesota House GOP

Jumping into Medicaid expansion won’t help

Representative Jim Abeler, in the Winona Daily Tribune talking about the Democrats’ attempt to rush into Obamacare:

After months of work to “save GAMC,” many politicians now propose we abandon the new General Assistance Medical Care program in favor of expanding Medicaid and rushing to adopt the controversial federal health care bill.

As they use questionable figures to paint it as a “strong investment,” the reality is that the proposed expansion is costly and would derail innovative, Minnesota-made bipartisan reform.

Minnesota House GOP

New Year’s Resolution Status: Kept

Last December, House Republicans announced their New Year’s Resolution for Economic Opportunity at a State Capitol press conference:

“Our resolution – and we are absolutely intent on keeping it – is that Republicans are not going to make it more expensive to be a job provider in Minnesota,” said House Republican Minority Leader Kurt Zellers.

“When a small business owner tells you he will be hit by the Democrats’ income tax increase, it gets your attention,” said Representative Keith Downey (Edina) of the Democrats’ plan to create a new 9-percent income tax bracket.

Once again during this year’s legislative session, Democrats proposed raising taxes, as they have in the past.  House Republicans kept to their resolution and protected Minnesota businesses and families from higher taxes.

The purpose of the Republicans’ resolution was to ease the “pandemic of uncertainty” that lingers over businesses — uncertainty created by government, as Ron Scherer of the Christian Science Monitor points out:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents larger corporations, says a lot of the uncertainty for its members is Washington-generated.

“Tell me what my taxes will be as a company,” says Bruce Josten, the chamber’s executive vice president for government affairs in Washington. “No one can tell me.”

And to no one’s surprise, Obamacare isn’t helping.

It’s not just taxes, says Josten. Businesses are still unsure how much the new health-care reform bill will cost them, he says. “Many companies are finding their premiums are rising,” he says. “Companies like some certainty on fixed costs.”

House Republicans also offered ideas to send a different message to job creators: Government will get out of your pocket and off your back so you can expand.

Minnesota House GOP

House Republicans Announce “Priorities, People And Performance” Reform Initiatives

Agenda focuses on prioritizing spending, serving people instead of programs

ST. PAUL, March 16, 2011 – Less than one week after introducing balanced budget targets, House Republicans discussed a series of reform initiatives to reduce costs, improve service delivery, and drive government into the 21st century.

“The time for implementing real reform is long overdue,” said Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers (R – Maple Grove).  “It may not be easy, but as we craft our balanced budget we’re following through on our promise to the people of Minnesota and building a strong economy and laying a strong foundation for our kids’ economic future,” Zellers continued.

From state operations to health and human services to education, House GOP initiatives focus on putting resources towards results and changing the focus from government to the people it serves.  Proposals include:

  • IT, administrative, and back-office consolidation
  • Health and Human Services redesign
  • Web-based services including one-stop HHS eligibility and application website

 

“Our agenda is very clear,” said Representative Keith Downey (R – Edina), who has authored several reform proposals during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 legislative sessions.  “We’re going to fund priorities, not bureaucracy, and we’re going to serve people, not programs.”

Individually and as a package, the reforms offered by House Republicans promote fiscal stability, modernize state services and drive continued innovation.

“Governor Dayton’s proposed budget relied on tax increases, without even considering these reforms,” said Zellers.  “I am hopeful that the Governor will work with us in the coming weeks to pass these reforms and make our state more competitive and national leaders in reform again.”

 Concluded Zellers: “That’s our vision, that’s the people’s vision, and we’re going to make it happen.”

Republicans introduce Phase I Budget Bill

ST. PAUL, January 18, 2011 — Minnesota House and Senate Republicans today introduced an early action budget bill that takes immediate steps to reduce the budget deficit by $1 billion.  The bill reduces spending for state agencies by $200 million in the current budget while making other one-time spending cuts permanent, reducing the long-term deficit by another $840 million.  The early budget bill represents the first phase of the Minnesota Legislature’s budget balancing plan for the next two years.

“We need to prevent automatic spending increases that are included in the state government budget, and passing this budget bill will keep some of state government’s expenditures at current levels,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chair Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville.  “For the most part, the budget bill includes spending levels that were approved by the DFL-controlled Legislature and Republicans at the end of the 2010 legislative session,” said Holberg.

“In light of the large forecasted budget deficit, I believe most cities, counties, and public higher education institutions have been expecting these budget reductions to continue,” said Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Claire Robling (R-Jordan). “This action should not come as a surprise to them or to the majority of legislators who voted for these reductions last year.”

“This bill is fiscally responsible and is the first step toward balancing the budget,” said House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove.  Zellers said the Legislature will act quickly on the first phase of the budget balancing plan, giving it hearings this week and next and having it on Governor Dayton’s desk in early February.

The first phase of the budget balancing plan would cancel the return of the Political Contribution Refund program that uses tax money to refund political contributions up to $50 for individuals and $100 for couples, saving $11.8 million. It also keeps local government aids and credits, MnSCU and the University of Minnesota at Fiscal Year 2011 levels.

In the current budget that ends June 30, 2011, the bill gives the Minnesota Management and Budget commissioner the directive to reduce state agency spending by $200 million to prevent a “Christmas in June” for agencies that spend excess money in order to protect their total level of funding.

“We have seen that government spending continues to increase even in the face of tight economic times.  We need to send a message to state agencies that it is time to stop all non-essential discretionary spending,” said Holberg.  “A dollar saved now will allow the legislature to re-examine spending priorities and ensure that government budgets reflect the spending priorities of taxpayers and the state,” added Holberg.

Republicans included a provision to keep the K-12 general education formula, special education funding and further reductions to higher education off-limits from the $200 million reduction. Constitutional offices and the Legislature will also see a reduction to their current budgets.

Minnesota House GOP

House Republicans Unveil Job Creation and Budget Initiative

Keeping its commitment to Minnesotans, Minnesota House Republicans today unveiled two bills designed to encourage job creation and reform how state government sets its budget.

House File 1, authored by Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau) will streamline the permitting and environmental review process. House File 2, authored by Rep. King Banaian (R-St. Cloud), will implement priority-based budgeting for state government.

“Our priorities as a state are clear job creation and a state government that doesn t spend more than it can afford,”  said Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers.  “House File 1 and 2 will make those priorities a reality. This has been our commitment to Minnesotans, and we will fulfill that commitment.”

Rep. Dan Fabian, who is a teacher and small business owner serving his first term, said business owners and farmers in his northwest Minnesota district have long struggled with the complex, cumbersome and uncertain permitting process. House File 1 is comprised of six initiatives designed to shorten the amount of time it takes to get a permit. The bill will:

Minnesota House GOP

House K-12 Committee Passes Education Finance Bill

Increases per-pupil funding, relieves mandates and makes significant reforms

St. Paul – Delivering on its “Kids first, no exceptions, no excuses” priority, the Minnesota House Education Finance Committee today passed its K-12 education finance bill 12-7. Committee Chair Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said the bill shows an effort to prioritize funding while reforming the way the K-12 education system works.

“This is the most ambitious education bill I’ve seen in my six years in the Legislature,” Garofalo said. “It meets and exceeds our commitment to classroom funding by increasing the per-pupil levels over the next three years. It also carries substantial reforms that have been in the works for years but never made it through to reality. This year, were ready to deliver.”

Under the bill, per-pupil funding would steadily increase from $5,124 to $5,250 in 2014. The bill also repeals integration funding aid. A 2005 report from the Legislative Auditor found numerous faults with the program, leading lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to question its effectiveness. Most of the money from the repeal is still being given to the same schools, but with a focus on student achievement and academic performance. Garofalo said another $17 million will go into a new pilot program aimed at reducing the achievement gap.

Schools would be graded on a new A-F grading system under one of the bill’s many reform provisions. A-F grading is modeled after a successful Florida initiative, and schools that score the highest would receive funding bonuses. The bill also creates a new teacher evaluation system. Evaluations would be based 50-percent on student achievement and 50-percent on locally-determined factors. These evaluations would replace the ‘last hired, first fired’ system and change the focus to retaining the most effective teachers.

“If we continue to rest on our laurels, well get leap-frogged by other states more willing to take on reform challenges,” Garofalo said. “A-F school grading and teacher evaluation changes are big steps forward. We owe it to kids to do this heavy lifting so we’re providing the best world-class education possible.”

The bill contains no reductions to Head Start, School Readiness or ECFE. It would also prohibit the state from delaying aid payments to certain schools in order to avoid the state having to use short-term borrowing to cover its cash flow. Mandate relief in the bill includes repealing the maintenance-of-effort for the safe school levy and repealing the 2-percent staff development set aside, among other removals.

Other highlights include:

 

  • Providing opportunity scholarships to low-income Minneapolis and St. Paul students in failing schools;
  • Continuing the 70/30 school funding shift passed in 2010;
  • A performance-based principal evaluation system starting in the 2013-14 school year;

 

Changes to teacher contract negotiations include:

  • Moving contract negotiations to the summer, outside the regular school year;
  • Requiring binding arbitration if both sides cannot agree during summer negotiations;
  • Repealing the January 15 salary settlement mandate that cost schools more than $3 million since 2006;
  • Makes teachers essential employees, protecting communities from divisive strikes.

Minnesota House GOP

Republicans Offer Spending Accountability Amendment

Representative Paul Kohls, Victoria, today offered the Spending Accountability Amendment on the House Floor as a minority report to the Democrats’ tax bill.

The amendment, viewable here, would have put before voters a constitutional amendment that says state government cannot spend more money that was available in the previous two-year budget period.  The report made exceptions for spending on critical public safety or health care needs as a result of a declared national security or peacetime emergency.

Rather than give the idea a straight up or down vote, Democrats tabled it.

Kohls announced last November that he would carry the amendment in the Minnesota House, you can read that announcement here.   The bill, HF 3104, has never been given a hearing by Democrats.

We’ll add video of the debate as soon as it is available.

Minnesota House GOP