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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Mary Franson (R)

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Legislative Update (2-13-15)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Dear Neighbor,

We found out late last week that Governor Dayton handed out double-digit taxpayer-funded pay raises to members of his Cabinet. These pay raises are estimated to cost the state as much as $1.4 million dollars over the biennium. According to one report, the pay increases range from 19% to as high as 58%. One of the governor’s appointees will be receiving an $84,000 raise from the previous year’s salary.

This is an outrageous abuse of taxpayer dollars considering many families’ take-home pay has remained flat and are still struggling to make ends meet. The fact that the governor would approve such dramatically lavish salary increases for commissioners and political appointees – most of whom were already making a six-figure public salary – is extremely disappointing.

While the governor should be held responsible for these increases, it should not go un-noticed that the power granted to him to unilaterally raise salaries for his commissioners came as the result of a law passed in 2013 by the Democrat majority in the legislature. This change allowed the limit on salaries for commissioners to move from 85 or 95 percent of the governor’s salary to 133 percent. It also allowed the governor to raise the pay of his commissioners without legislative or public approval.

My colleagues and I have begun taking steps to rectify these dramatic pay increases. On Monday, the House Ways and Means Committee passed an amendment offered by Rep. Steve Drazkowski to remove $40,000 from three departments’ requests for additional funding and to allocate the reduction to the commissioner salaries. Also, Rep. Roz Peterson has authored a bill that would require legislative approval for any executive branch salaries, which would include pay raises.

While the governor has certainly endured criticism from the public and House Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, a Democrat, released a statement on Wednesday night critical of the governor’s decision. On Thursday, the Democrat-controlled Senate voted to delay the pay hikes. The measure passed on a 63-2 vote. At this point, it seems that the only one left defending this decision is the governor himself.

The House State Government Finance Committee has extended an offer to the governor to come and testify before committee to answer questions, in a public setting, regarding the increases. He has thus far declined the offer.

I am committed to working with my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to find ways that we can roll back the governor’s pay raises and to make sure that the power to unilaterally give commissioners taxpayer funded raises is taken away.

House File 627 Receives First Hearing

HF 627, a bill that I authored, received its first hearing and was passed out of the Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee this past Wednesday.

This bill does three specific things to help improve the quality of care in rural Minnesota nursing homes.

It expands the health professional education loan forgiveness program to allow additional health professionals to participate in the program in order to incentivize individuals to become long term care providers.

The bill also modifies and expands the nursing facility employee scholarship program.

Finally, it directs the commissioner of employment and economic development to review existing workforce development programs and report to the legislature their recommendations to further the advancement of long-term care careers in Minnesota

There is a great need for the development of the long term care workforce here in Minnesota. I have continually heard from folks all over the district that our nursing homes and care centers, especially those in rural Minnesota, are struggling to find and retain staff. This bill helps to address this problem by encouraging individuals to pursue careers long-term and nursing home care.

Staying in Touch

I will be holding a constituent coffee this Saturday, from 9:30-10:30 at the Caribou Coffee (Nokomis) in Alexandria. I encourage you to come by and enjoy a cup of coffee and chat with me about your questions and concerns.

As always, please feel free to contact me via e-mail at Rep.Mary.Franson@House.MN or contact my office at 651-296-3201. You can also send mail to my office address: 517 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.