ST. PAUL, MN — Minnesota House Republicans held a press conference Tuesday urging the new DFL House Majority and Governor Walz not to raise health care costs on Minnesotans by restoring the sick tax—a 2 percent tax levied on most patient services in Minnesota, including things like baby deliveries, chemotherapy treatments, routine doctor visits, emergency room visits, and more. The tax, which was eliminated as part of bipartisan legislation passed by a Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by Governor Dayton in 2011, is set to expire starting January 1, 2020. In total, restoring the tax would result in a more than $600 million increase on health care costs for Minnesotans next year alone. Over the past week, Governor Walz called it a "nonstarter
" to end the tax, and DFL House HHS Finance Chair Tina Liebling said it was "essential
" to restore the tax or replace its revenue.
"Our message is simple: don’t raise our health care costs," said House Republican Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. "You don’t make health care more affordable by raising health care taxes—this seems like common sense, but Democrats have made clear they will pursue restoring this harmful tax at a time when health care costs are already too high for Minnesotans."
Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, Republican lead on the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee, said it was a no-brainer not to bring back the sick tax, especially when Minnesota has a $1.5 billion budget surplus.
"With a $1.5 billion surplus, raising taxes—especially on something like health care—should be off the table," Schomacker said. "We can easily make up for the revenue by dipping into the surplus, finally cracking down on waste and fraud within our public programs, or working together to rein in the out-of-control inflationary costs that everyone agrees threatens the stability of our state budget."
Last year, numbers from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Budget Director indicated
that Minnesota is losing tens of millions of dollars per month by failing to implement periodic data matching (PDM), which helps verify program eligibility for Minnesota public programs. DHS has acknowledged that fraud within the childcare assistance program is a "big problem
," costing the state tens of millions of dollars, and the non-partisan legislative auditor has released multiple reports
detailing hundreds of millions in public program benefits going to recipients who are not eligible.
"House Democrats and Governor Walz promised Minnesotans last fall they would work to lower the cost of care," added Deputy Republican Leader Anne Neu, R-North Branch. "We are calling on Democrats to make sure their actions this session live up to their words."