Legislative Update May 8, 2015
Ten days to go in this Legislative Session, but lawmakers aren’t much closer on a budget deal than last week. Despite the $1.9 billion surplus, the GOP-led House still wants a tax bill with big cuts for state programs for Minnesota citizens. Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said he’s still pushing for $1.1 billion in Health and Human Services cuts. Big businesses would see their taxes lowered under the GOP plan and even enjoy an end to property taxes.
Working families will have to pay more if the final budget slashes $563 million, as proposed, with the elimination of MinnesotaCare. Other savings come from shifts and gimmicks. The GOP budget would delay managed care payments by a month to save $135 million and save a claimed $300 million by eliminating ineligible enrollees and working to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse from public programs. The nonpartisan budget staff reported that this figure is not accurate and even in the best case would save only $16 million by catching fraud. Meanwhile, the DFL-led Senate is holding to its $341 million increase for Health and Human Services, and the Governor still hopes to increase funds for schools to include all-day pre-school statewide.
The Conference Committee began meeting on Tuesday and continued throughout the week with little progress. Legislators won’t take much action until their leadership gives them more direction on how much money they need to spend or cut. These new budget targets could come Monday. Legislative leaders, Governor Dayton, Majority Leader Tom Bakk, and Speaker Kurt Daudt plan on fishing together for Walleye Fishing Opener on Saturday. Let’s hope they can “net” a compromise that delivers quality healthcare for all Minnesotans.
This is the insurance program for about 90,000 Minnesotans who make too much money for Medicaid but not enough to buy insurance through an exchange (approximately 134-200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level or about $40,000 for a family of four). GOP lawmakers have placed it on the chopping block because the funding mechanism, the Provider Tax, is set to go away in 2018. The Legislature, however, has the ability to extend those funds to protect Minnesota’s working class. If they don’t, these recipients will end up transferred to MNsure or another exchange where they’ll have to pay 200-300 percent more for coverage that could pay only 70 percent of their medical costs. As a result, many people who have jobs will end up skipping needed preventive care. Nurses know patients are coming to hospitals sicker and sicker because the costs of healthcare create barriers to being healthy.
Please let your legislators know nurses care for their patients, and MinnesotaCare allows 90,000 working class families to receive quality care.
Governor Mark Dayton issued a formal proclamation making May 6-12, 2015 Nurses Week in Minnesota. Legislators in the Minnesota House and Senate issued proclamations in their respective bodies to honor nurses. Lawmakers also took a moment to stand and applaud nurses visiting the Capitol to honor the vital jobs they perform every day. Senator John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin) also brought nurses onto the floor after session.
Wednesdays at the Capitol
This week, nurses from MNA’s Governmental Affairs Commission took a trip to the Capitol to talk with legislators. Much like previous weeks, the nurses were well received by their senators and representatives as they shared personal stories about incidents of workplace violence, unsafe staffing and hardships they see facing their patients. Every Wednesday, small groups of nurses visit the Capitol to meet with legislators about our priority bills. All MNA members are welcome and encouraged.
Nurses in attendance will meet at the MNA office in the morning for a briefing and quick training on how to talk to legislators. They then carpool to the Capitol to talk to elected officials about the need for Safe Patient Standard and Workplace Violence Prevention legislation. At around 1 p.m., the group returns to the MNA office for lunch and a debrief of the day. Please contact Geri Katz firstname.lastname@example.org or Eileen Gavin email@example.com for more information or to sign up.