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Minnesota Opinion: On Legislature and gov's work left undone

An excerpt from editorials published in Minnesota newspapers: From The Associated Press On Legislature and gov's work left undone: While the DFL Legislature and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty agreed to several important issues facing the state duri...

An excerpt from editorials published in Minnesota newspapers:

From The Associated Press

On Legislature and gov's work left undone:

While the DFL Legislature and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty agreed to several important issues facing the state during the most recent legislative session, the obvious 800-pound gorilla in the room is still the state budget deficit.

Legislators and the new governor will have to make up for $5.8 billion in red ink when they return in January.

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Still, it's important to note several bipartisan successes. The two parties approved a $680 billion bonding bill by late March, an important piece of legislation that helps maintain state buildings and bolsters the construction economy. Democrats had proposed up to $1 billion in bonding that included many regional civic center projects like Mankato's $14 million request.

It's unfortunate the governor vetoed the regional projects. We should remember come election time that Mankato had never before received state bonding money for its downtown civic center project, using all local money instead. Other regional centers including Rochester, Duluth, Bemidji and Crookston had received some $80 million in state bonding for their projects over the last few years.

There may be room for a smaller supplemental bill next year that would fund some of the important regional projects. Any legislator willing to say they would consider that ahead of the election will be worthy of local voter support.

There was what appeared to be a solid compromise on restoring funding to General Assistance Medical Care, a program that helped single childless adults, many veterans and the very poor, get some preventive health care. But the deal was so underfunded almost all outstate hospitals said they would not be able to participate at reimbursement levels that were a fraction of what they had received in the past.

Ultimately, the issue was folded into a plan to move all those patients onto the federal Medicaid program expanded through the latest federal health care plan. But even that is not a given as the next governor can opt out of the program that would give the state $1.4 billion in federal money for a $188 million in state funding.

The final budget compromise also allocated $10 million to help rural hospitals serve the poor clientele. That money will go into a pool that rural hospitals can draw upon when they don't get paid. That $10 million may not go very far, however. Immanuel-St. Joseph's reported it had $1.1 million loss on charity care in one year alone.

The new health care compromise law also will cut payments to hospitals and clinics starting next June.

The major issues were health care and the budget, and unfortunately, the Legislature and the governor only solved one out of two, and the one solution was less than solid.

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-- Mankato Free Press

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