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MN House GOP Budget vs. Your Family Budget

Category: GOP House Republicans
Posted: 05/07/15 01:01

by Dave Mindeman

The MN House Republicans are very concerned about the average Minnesota family's budget. They think government should budget in the same manner.

OK - so let's make the direct comparison....House Budget vs. Family Budget.

Transportation: Our typical family won't be having any new revenue in the transportation budget. Guess we have to stick with the two cars we have. Sorry, Jeannie, no car for your senior year and no money for an annual bus pass. And since we need to use the same pot of money that we had last year that means that we can't resurface the asphalt driveway. (House GOP wants to shift existing taxes to roads and bridges, cancelling other projects.) Really don't like that big pothole we keep backing into. And we need a new transmission for the Chevy. Well, maybe we can dig into the home equity loan account and borrow enough to get those things done - and maybe pay it back with future transportation budgets. (House Republicans want to borrow money via transportation bonding; which will add to future debt.)

Health Care: The family lives from paycheck to paycheck but we manage to eke out a living. But since we can't get healthcare at work, we have to get it on our own. Fortunately, this qualifies us for MinnesotaCare with premiums that fit our budget. (House Republicans plan to eliminate MNCare, pushing those covered under that program into MNSure.) Without MNCare, we will have to go to the exchange....and it looks like our health premiums will triple, even with a Federal/State subsidy. I'm not sure where we will find the money to make that up. Our budget guy is telling us that we also have to find a way to squeeze out any waste in spending - at least enough to cover about 3 weeks of premiums. (House Republicans expect $300 million in waste reductions in health care.) I'm not sure what to do - it all sounds like a magic act to me.

Tax Cuts: Maybe I can use my tax cut savings to shore things up. Sounds like we could be getting an extra tax credit for the kids. What was it? About $500 over two years...and then its done? I live in St. Paul (House GOP: Cut in local government aid to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth only) and they tell me that local government aid was eliminated and that my property taxes will go up - so who knows how much of my tax credit I get to keep. (House GOP has personal and dependent exemption as their premier item, which they said could save some middle-class families of four up to $500 over the two-year life of the exemption.) (House GOP gives businesses permanent property tax relief, forcing cities to tax somebody else) My neighbor who smokes and is retired will do better than me on taxes....the guy with the estate down the road gets a permanent tax cut on his future estate taxes...he's happy; his savings dwarfs mine.

Schools: My neighbor, who is on the school board, says that the new budget will force them to layoff teachers. He said that new money doesn't even cover inflation. (House Republicans have proposed a .6 percent bump in general education funding in each of the next two years.) He's not sure, but they may have to ask for a levy during the next election. More pressure on my property taxes? I guess I might get a tax deduction when my daughter goes to college, but that won't happen for a year and we have to budget for now. I was hoping she could afford to go to the U of M but it looks like the tuition freeze will be gone and she will have to pay more. (With House GOP Higher Ed Budget, University President Eric Kaler has said students could expect a tuition increase in the amount of 2 percent to 3 percent.)

So what are we supposed to think. The majority of us will get a little extra tax cut for 2 years....while business and wealthy estates get the permanent breaks. And since those breaks involve property taxes, you know what that means - we pay to make up the difference.

Transportation funding is a sleight of hand gimmick - solving nothing and delaying projects which will end up costing more because of the delay. Health Care gets cut to make room in the budget for tax cuts....and it involves cutting a program that has worked well for decades.

Our schools have finally dug out of one hole only to get another shovel handed to them to start a new one. Higher Education will continue to eat up family budget dollars as tuition increases and more loans are needed.

Yet, the House Republicans talk as though they are doing us all a favor. That we should be delighted to get our token rebate and not look at all the other gimmicks that will end up costing us more now and more later.

They better stop comparing what they do as some kind of example of family budgeting. I don't know of any family budget that needs phantom money to balance, or that goes deeper into debt without long term consequences.

It's not a budget - it's a joke.
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Rep. Mack Wants Insurance Companies In Control

Category: GOP House Republicans
Posted: 05/05/15 10:41

by Dave Mindeman

House Republicans really enjoy talking about MNSure. Even when the head of the Department (Scott Leitz) leaves to take a different position, the House Republicans pounce on this as "another indication" of MNSure collapsing.

MNSure is nowhere near the disaster it was at the beginning. Democrats were on record as voicing their own criticism of the rollout. But Leitz actually righted the ship. The enrollment during this cycle was much more even keel with less customer hassle. Yes, there are still things to work out, but it has reduced the uninsured rate by 40% and Minnesotans are finding the health care they need.

But the House Republicans don't want MNSure to succeed. Rep. Tara Mack is the lead House Republican on health care and she wants to fundamentally change the law once again. Her bill would put everything back in the hands of the insurers. They would determine eligibility. They would sell the policies directly. How is that any different from the dysfunctional health care that brought about the ACA in the first place?

There is also a complication that Rep. Mack never addresses. How can insurance companies be involved in the Federal subsidies? That is one of the main complications that gave MNSure its problems in the first place. It requires access to sensitive financial data for taxpayers and MNSure had to deal with complicated rules to implement that. So Rep. Mack wants to allow insurance companies in Minnesota to have that access? She wants them to have access to that financial data? I have never heard an explanation of how she plans to implement that, safely and effectively.

Rep. Mack is quick to criticize how MNSure operates but she really does not want to fix it. She wants insurance companies to take back their own control.

And if Tara Mack thinks that eliminating MinnesotaCare (which her bill does) is going to help Minnesota's health care system, she is dead wrong. MinnesotaCare is a program that works and allows 100,000 Minnesotans to have access to affordable care. Not only does she want to gut MNSure, but she wants to gut other health care programs as well.

Minnesota's admirable near the top ranking in the low number of uninsured is in deep jeopardy if Rep. Tara Mack is allowed to machete the MN health care system.

It is not fixing anything - it is foolish insurance company pandering.
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House GOP Campaign Finance: We Need A Return Of The Jedi

Category: GOP House Republicans
Posted: 05/05/15 10:07, Edited: 05/05/15 10:12

by Dave Mindeman

It's probably a little late for a Star Wars analogy, but I'm going to go ahead anyway. (May the Fourth Be With You)

But here's the deal. When it comes to the Republicans and Campaign Finance, there is an Evil Empire.

The House has a bill which would put the kabosh on the public financing system in Minnesota, while at the same time dropping the limits on what individuals can give to a campaign. That is a concept only an evil empire would want. Small individual donors are gone - big money rules.

And House sponsor Rep. Sarah Anderson tells us that disclouse rules are still in place - which is fine for individual campaigns, but allows the "dark" money of outside groups to continue, unlimited and without names.

I think Republicans have lost the right to complain about the money Alida Messinger has given to Democrats over the last few cycles - at least her contributions are known. With Republicans, the emphasis is on secret donors especially when it comes to the big backers.

So who's our Darth Vader? Well, that one is easy - it's Ben Golnik. He was the former head of the Minnesota Jobs Coaltion group that put out those cheesy ads against MN Democratic House members in the last election. And they were pretty successful targeting rural Democrats and creating this divide between outstate and metro, which the Minnesota House is continuing to elevate during this session. And guess who is now the director of the House Republican caucus? Why, yes...Darth Vader/Ben Golnik.

That's why it is not hard to extrapolate that the recent and very early attacks, by the MJC, on Minnesota Senate candidates on the gas tax, have a connection to Darth Golnik. Of course there is no "technical" coordination. But are we supposed to be naive? I mean there are many "former" Minnesota Jobs Coaltion employees that now happen to have House Republican caucus jobs....Ethan Hellier, a former MJC tracker is another one. (And these jobs don't pay peanuts - Golnik gets over $124,000. And that is a partisan political position, not a Commissioner)

Are we to assume that there is some accidental coincidence that as the Senate takes up the gas tax, that attack flyers (via the Minnesota Jobs Coalition) about that very subject are suddenly popping up in key districts. A gas tax, by the way, that is adamantly opposed by the House GOP caucus.

The House GOP wants to get rid of campaign finance restrictions. Oh, this bill doesn't eliminate everything. There is still some disclosure, but the Supreme Court will probably soon end all of that for them. Right now, they want to complain about Democratic money and allies, as if the Dems are supposed to unilaterally disarm and only allow Republican money guys to rule the roost.

There is a danger here and North Carolina provides the real life warning. If you open the doors for "big money" people to influence peddle you get characters like Art Pope in North Carolina who buys legislative seats and then gets himself appointed by an appreciative GOP Governor to a position of influence in state budgets.

We don't want self serving rich people controlling what rightfully belongs to all the people. But that is where we are headed. Darth Golnik and the House Republicans are attempting to implement that plan and do the bidding of an evil empire.

It time for a Return of the Jedi.
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