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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Policy From House GOP: Are We Suddenly In Need Of Austerity?

Category: GOP House Republicans
Posted: 04/19/15 22:34

by Dave Mindeman

OK - here are some quick comments on Minnesota policy by the House GOP.

1. The Soccer subsidy seems reasonable. Since I am so used to the greed of sports franchise owners, the sales tax exemption and property tax breaks that the MN United franchise is asking for seem incredibly reasonable. However, given the austerity budget that the House Republicans are proposing, I am skeptical that any subsidy really fits in. If the House allows anything for soccer, then their hypocrisy is exposed.

2. That House GOP Health and Human services budget is a travesty. Here we are trying to add people to the insured ranks....yet, the House GOP's bill would dump MinnesotaCare and put about 100,000 people back in limbo. And besides that, the House wants to put them in the MNSure pool - the health care network they have been trying to repeal for over 2 years. Somebody making any sense of that one?

3. In the House tax bill there is a provision that prohibits any kind of funding for high speed rail between the Twin Cities and Rochester. I mean prohibit because they outline any kind of funding - state or local - that could possibly be given to "zip rail" and say YOU CANNOT DO THAT. I guess the House GOP wants to force private investors to come forward (there is a group that is considering it). However, why would they take that kind of risk if the state is on record to not support the project in any way? Again, somebody making any sense of that one either?

4. The House is refusing to even consider a gas tax or any kind of revenue stream for transportation. How in the world are we to meet the 10 year revenue requirements if every biennium requires a gimmick to fund it? SMH!

5. And now we are proposing tax cuts (again) in the House. $2 billion in tax cuts while cutting more programs that have been in place for the lower and middle classes is puzzling in the light of a budget surplus. We are going backward in transportation and health care, but research and development for business gets more tax credits? Really? And more breaks in the estate tax? Really?

6. And why are they so willing to bond to pay for those tax cuts....while refusing to take up Dayton's bonding bill proposal. Rural Minnesota is asking for a number of projects including keeping the Lewis and Clark water project. And yet, the House refuses to consider it. In light of what is going on in California, shouldn't Minnesota be proactive on water?

7. Let's not forget broadband. After Rep. Garofalo dismissed more broadband funding for rural Minnesota (saying wireless was the way to go anyway, so he axed the whole thing).....the House GOP relented and went with an $8 million stipend....which essentially does little if anything to meet the ongoing need. Governor Dayton and the Senate Democrats were much more generous and have plans to fully meet this need within 5 years. At the rate the House is going, it could take over a decade. Tell me again who is championing rural issues at the Capitol?

I have to wonder if the House GOP thinks that Minnesota is an austerity case for some reason? In a time of surplus they are budgeting like we need to go back to the deficit years. I mean their budgeting agenda looks pretty similar - tax cuts, spending cuts, borrowing to meet the balance.

I guess gimmick budgeting is now all they know how to do.

It is kind of pathetic. It really is.
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House GOP: These Salary Complaints Grow Tiresome

Category: GOP House Republicans
Posted: 04/18/15 20:25

by Dave Mindeman

I am finding it increasingly annoying that House Republicans keep complaining about the salaries of commissioners and other state employees.

The latest couple of rounds involve Met Council Chair Adam Duininck - and another side issue involving the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority's Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen.

This piles on the already tiresome dispute about the salaries of Dayton's Commissioners - which has already led to legislation specific for blocking those raises.

I realize it is incumbent upon the House Republicans to continuously rail against spending in Minnesota government. It is what they do. It would seem that, according to them, government employees should be working for free - and any salary afforded them is a "gift".

We, as a state, are placing an enormous amount of responsibility on these individuals. And a helluva lot of money for them to steward. Yet, they have to continuously take these verbal jabs from the House Republicans that would seem to say to them, 'we don't think you are worth it.'

How's that for a morale boost?

In the case of Duininck, his salary was raised to reflect his full time status (which chair of the Met Council has pretty much always been anyway).... and the extraordinary responsibility that goes along with the position. The House Republicans resent the fact that the Governor gets to make this appointment and indirectly move its direction.

So what else is new about that?

The Executive branch has always had the appointment responsibility when it comes the the head of the Met Council....if Republicans are going to insist on making it an elected position, who gets to vote? This is a regional authority over the seven county metro area - if we hold an election, there would be an argument made that only the seven county area should be voting on the position.

So, it would seem that, yet again, the House Republicans are using this as another distraction to draw attention away from a body that is voting to do away with MinnesotaCare...that is going backward on funding transportation....and after cutting rural broadband altogether a week ago, have now decided to parlay $8 million into it - which is $12 million less than last year and $22 million less than the Governor wants over the next biennium (I guess their assumption is that rural Minnesota should be grateful to get that).

And then there is the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.

The rancor here erupted on a pay equity report that the MSFA adopted. It is meant to bring gender equity compliance. Which I would assume we would all assume is the fair approach.

Kelm-Helgen, who was appointed as chairwoman by Dayton, and was strongly defended by the governor earlier in the week, made an emotional defense of her job performance at the meeting. She said she was "exhausted" by the bickering over her $127,000-a-year position that stretched all the way to the Republican-controlled Minnesota House.

Now when she says it stretched to the House GOP, this is what she is referring to....

The meeting came two days after Dayton had joined in the controversy, criticizing a House Republican proposal to eliminate Kelm-Helgen's salary. State Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, the chairwoman of the House State Government Finance Committee, said the stadium authority seemed to have an executive director and a "pseudo executive director," referring to Kelm-Helgen.

I don't know if you have noticed, but Kelm-Helgen has been all over the place explaining how the stadium funding is being utilized....and making sure everyone understands the implementation of the funding that the legislature authorized. It is a pretty hefty responsibility and she has taken plenty of heat over a number of issues. I don't always agree with her analysis but I do admire her calm and professional demeanor. Yet, she is another state employee whom the House Republicans feel free to take pot shots at.

To me, I think it is time that the House Republican shut up. Let these people do their jobs. They are difficult enough as it is, without having public critics demeaning their abilities and authority. These salary complaints are over 15 to 20 different public employees. They are not breaking the bank in regards to state funding.

It was very interesting to note that during the rancorous debate at the MSFA regarding the pay equity discussion, this was part of it:

At one point, Kelm-Helgen traded heated comments with John Griffith, ; a board member who has been an executive vice president at Target Corp. She said Friday that earlier this year, Griffith privately warned the board's attorney that he would publicly criticize Kelm-Helgen if she insisted that she be included in a pay equity report that might lead to another pay increase.

She said that Griffith told the attorney to warn Kelm-Helgen that "if you do not agree to take yourself out of the equity report, I am going to make an issue of her" job. Kelm-Helgen added that she had "never felt more threatened by board members."


I find this immensely interesting for two reasons....

1. Mr. Griffith never seems to question the role of Ted Mondale who is the authority's executive director - a similar position to Kelm-Helgen. (Which might explain why the pay equity issue needs to be addressed).

2. And Mr. Griffith himself, a recently retired Target executive, who recently noted that the Authority should use a "corporate" model -- was paid salaries from $2 to 4 million annually during his last years at Target. If you took all of the commissioner salaries combined, Mr. Griffith's pay would exceed all of them in about 3 months of "work". How about that "corporate" model, Mr. Griffith?

These annoying trips to the government employee pay well are getting to sound more and more ridiculous. The MN GOP....A party that wouldn't vote for an increase in the minimum wage. That wants to cut insurance benefits for the poor in this state. That want to cut taxes for businesses for the upteenth time. And has a massive party debt of their own because they can't control their own budget. Yes, the GOP party thinks that they are being fiscally responsible by calling out individual salaries in state government....on people who have the unenviable job of making these budgets that the GOP insists on cutting -WORK for the State of Minnesota.

Enough of the bullsh*t. Instead, how about working with the Governor and the Democrats to pass a budget that works.

That's your REAL job.
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MinnesotaCare: House GOP Brings Out The Budget Axe

Category: GOP House Republicans
Posted: 04/17/15 12:15

by Dave Mindeman

So now MinnesotaCare is on the chopping block.

House Republicans released details Thursday of their spending plan for health and human services programs, which as expected would terminate MinnesotaCare, a public health insurance program that provides coverage for some 90,000 people.

For nearly 2 years, the House Republicans have been using MNSure as their punching bag - yet, when the budget axe falls, they decide to eliminate the health care program that works.

Rep. Tara Mack, who chairs the committee that gives us this budgetary piece of work, explains:

"This bill will continue providing critical services to those who need it most, and works to bend the cost curve to ensure health care costs don't grow exponentially faster than the budgets of the families who fund it," said Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley, chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Reform Committee. (Emphasis mine)

Again, we get the GOP prerequisite growing faster than the budgets of the families who fund it. Except what about the budgets of the families in MNCare? Obviously, their budgets don't count. The whole purpose of MinnesotaCare, from the beginning, was to provide a place for those who didn't qualify for Medicaid, but had trouble finding affordable health care in the market place. Without MinnesotaCare, many of them simply joined the ranks of the uninsured.

What the House GOP is recommending here is that we dump these people back into the talons of the insurance industry. Yes, they can shop the MNSure system, hope they qualify for a subsidy, and then hopefully find something that MN insurance carriers have that fit into their tight budgets.

Getting a subsidy on MNSure does not mean you don't pay. You still do and without MinnesotaCare, their coverage will be less. Meaning they will get hit with deductibles and non-coverages which could eat up their meager pay, just when they had a chance to get a little bit ahead.

Yes, the House GOP is worried about family budgets. But not all of them, just the ones that fit their ideal.

Tara Mack believes in separating family budgets into the haves and have nots. The have nots are getting to be too much of a drain on the taxpayer dollars of the haves and therefore it has to change.

MinnesotaCare has been a shining light in the Minnesota health care system for decades. A lot of states emulated this program....and now the MN House GOP would cast it aside like moldy bread.

MinnesotaCare exists because we refused to let people slip through the cracks. To Republicans, that can no longer stand.

Health insurance carriers will soon be back in charge - and those that cannot afford it are back on the uninsured rolls.

Family budgets, for the House GOP, are only worth noting if you are on the right side of the poverty line.
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