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

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Legislative Update (2-20-15)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friends and Neighbors,

On Tuesday, the nonpartisan Legislative Auditor released its much anticipated evaluation report on MNSure. Although the findings were unsurprising, it is still very disappointing to see. After taxpayers spent $189 million to build MNSure, the auditor found that its failures far outweighed its accomplishments.

Minnesota has an exchange that failed its basic function—provide a user friendly website that would give Minnesotans affordable health insurance options. Ever since its start date in October 2013, the website has continually failed Minnesotans as they have had to suffer through a wide variety of significant technical glitches.

The Auditor’s report found that 58 percent of those surveyed spent at least four hours on the enrollment process. Additionally, 75 percent who enrolled reported experiencing “significant” technical problems.

While thousands of Minnesotans were struggling through the enrollment process, $26,000 in bonuses were paid to MNSure executives and another $125,000 in compensation increases were given to these same executives in 2014. This is simply unacceptable.

Additionally, MNsure’s public enrollment sign ups far outpaced that of private plans. This is problematic due to the fact that the tax on commercial insurance plans is how MNsure funds itself going forward. Being 88 percent below its enrollment goal means there is a serious funding gap to run the exchange. If that wasn’t enough, the Governor has also asked for additional funding from the legislature to cover this funding gap.

While the Governor and Democrats promised that a 2 or 2.25 percent tax would be sufficient to cover the costs to run MNSure, they have already been forced to raise the tax to 3.5 to cover the funding shortfall. With health insurance costs already skyrocketing, this increase in taxes only exacerbates the problem.

For better or worse, MNSure is a reality here in Minnesota and Minnesotans and their families deserve an exchange that works. House Republicans have already offered bills that would begin to fix the issues facing MNSure. I am hopeful that the governor and legislature will be able to come together and find a bipartisan agreement to make MNSure work better for everyone.

Bills Heard Before Committee

Two bills that I am authoring were heard before the Greater Minnesota Economic and Workforce Development Policy Committee on Tuesday. House File 578 and 579, which both have bipartisan support, are aimed to provide funding for the Business Development Public Infrastructure Grant Program (BDPI).

The BDPI program provides grants to cities in Greater Minnesota of up to 50% of the capital costs of public infrastructure necessary to expand economic growth, retain or create jobs, or increase the tax base.

Many of Greater Minnesota’s cities depend on this grant program to attract new businesses and create jobs in their communities.

Both bills passed committee and were re-referred to the Job Growth & Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Committee.

Governor’s Authority to Raise Salaries Reined In

Senate File 174 came before the House floor for a vote on Thursday. SF 174 provides funds to the Department of Health, the Department of Human Services, the DNR, and the Minnesota Zoo to cover budget deficiencies from unplanned expenditures such as the Ebola crisis that took place last year.

The bill, after being amended on the House floor today, also took a step forward in reining in the pay raises the governor issues to members of his cabinet in January by:

  • Restoring legislative oversight of executive pay raises

  • Immediately freezing the salary increases

  • Cutting the allocations made to state departments based on the commissioner salary increases

I was happy to vote in favor of these measure to make agencies live within their means and restore public oversight over commissioner salaries.

Staying in Touch

I will be holding a constituent coffee this Saturday at the Caribou Coffee (Nokomis) in Alexandria from 9:30-10:30. Please come by and chat with me about issues that are important to you over a cup of coffee.

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.