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Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Good Work by Minnesota Legislators

Dana Mathewson

Awhile ago, after it became evident that Minnesota's legislature was not going to cave in to our "highly medicated" governor's demands for a large tax increase to fund his desired new spending programs (everybody knows about his partial shutdown of our government), I e-mailed my state senator and representative. They've been busy, but today the senator got back to me, and included a great deal of information on just what the legislature accomplished as a result. I thought you out-of-staters might be interested and even perhaps a tad envious.


Thanks for taking the time to send me a message about the state budget and government shutdown. I wanted to get back to you so that you would know that I saw your email and appreciated the encouragement. Over the course of the end of session, budget deal deadline and government shutdown, I received hundreds of emails, phone calls and letters and it does take a while to get back to everyone.

Thanks for the encouragement. We do not get a lot of those around here. We're in agreement that the $34 billion amount is plenty, however, with the new deal, you will see that Governor Dayton actually agreed to future reductions in the cost of healthcare.

Dana, you already know we have the most liberal governor in the state's modern history and it should be celebrated that he realized in the long run, he loses this debate.

The deal that ended the government shutdown was not a great deal but if you recall we started out with a $5 billion deficit. During the session the GOP put forth a budget with billions in spending cuts with a long list of conservative policy and budget reforms. The final deal initially looked like we would lose all those reforms and would end up funding the status quo which is completely unacceptable. Fortunately, during the weekend leading up to the special session, we put back in a great number of reforms that have a dramatic downward pressure for the years to come. Here are some of the reforms, budget savings and reductions:

Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) welfare restrictions. No alcohol or tobacco purchases with welfare benefit dollars and issuing new cards that aid in fraud reduction
Complete repeal of hospital rebasing. This would stop the automatic increase of healthcare costs into the budget. Increases in funding to hospitals would have to be vetted.
The growth of healthcare costs are reduced from a five year average of 15% to 4.8%.
Additional spending this year in the Health and Human Services Budget provides $1.7 billion in cost savings over the next two years.
Average of 5% cut to all government agencies.
State government budget is reduced 10.3%
MPR funding reduction of 15%.
E-Verify. Businesses that contract with the state are required to use this program to electronically verify citizenship status.
Reviews for the office of the State Auditor. The State Auditor must report to the Legislature regarding the timeliness, costs and customer satisfaction of audits done by the office.
State employee performance appraisals. State agencies are required to perform performance appraisals for all state agency employees. This would tie salary increases to performance.
No retroactive payments for employees who were furloughed as a result of the shutdown.
Local Government Aid (LGA) remains permanently funded at 2010 levels. Our cities in the district receive $0 in LGA.
Estate tax exclusion. This would provide relief for qualifying small business owners.
Local option sales tax restrictions. Cities desiring to petition the state to raise their sales tax must have passed by a referendum before getting authorization from the state. Local governments are prohibited from spending money to promote a local sales tax and limits the spending to the costs of conducting the required referendum.
No sales taxes on ring tones or event ticket resales.
$33 million reduction in overall tax burden and a savings of $600 million over the next two years.
This is the great untold story in the media Dana.

The $700 million education shift and the tobacco bond payments are not great but compared to $5 billion in forecasted spending is not entirely kicking the can down the road, as they say. The price we paid for these reforms give us enormous possibilities to curb future spending. That is why we negotiated them into our bills during the special session.

Going forward, I will work in the next two years to push for more spending reforms with the goal of bringing government more in line with the private sector and to make Minnesota more globally competitive.

Thanks again for the email Dana. Email me anytime.


Chris Gerlach
State Senator- District 37
Apple Valley, Burnsville, Rosemount

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