Last Thursday the House passed a spending bill over 400-pages long that spends $323 million of General Fund money in 2014-15 and $892 million in 2016-17.
While a few provisions within this large bill were worthwhile, I could not support voting for $1.2 billion in new spending after the historic increases in taxes and spending from the 2013 Legislative Session. If you remember, last year we saw $2.1 billion in new taxes on hardworking Minnesota families, $4 billion more in new spending, and the authorization to build a $90 million deluxe office building for state senators.
For the past several weeks, Republican legislators have been calling on the DFL leadership in the House to bring a standalone proposal that would provide a 5% rate increase for those who work with our disability community. Making sure our most vulnerable citizens have proper care is a priority for me. I have stated publicly my strong support for the 5% rate increase, and would gladly vote in favor of a clean standalone bill. I was disappointed that Democrats included this proposal in their gigantic spending bill instead of allowing for a separate vote.
The deal-breaker for me was the bailout of Obamacare tucked into this legislation that took $442 million from the General Fund in fiscal year 2016-2017 to refill the Healthcare Access Fund, a fund created to increase access to health care for the uninsured, because of a hole created by increased costs of Obamacare. The implementation of Obamacare in our state hasn’t been working well and we shouldn’t be throwing more taxpayer dollars at it to bail it out.
One of the silver linings about the bill was an amendment I authored that requires the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) to find 5% efficiency on their road construction budget. If MNDOT is able to successfully find such efficiencies, they could reinvest $47 million on improving roads and bridges with existing revenue. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce strongly supports this provision and it was accepted by unanimous voice vote of the House. I hope it remains in place after the conference committee meets.
This legislation also has a $58 per-pupil increase on the basic K-12 Education funding formula. Given the multitude of new unfunded mandates on our schools, such an increase is necessary. However, I believe it does not go far enough. Along with my Republican colleagues, I supported an amendment that would have put $65 per-pupil on the basic K12 funding formula. Unfortunately, the Democrat-majority did not support that amendment. Our students deserve better.
If you have any questions about any state legislative issue, you can contact me by e-mail at Rep.Marion.ONeill@House.MN or call my office at 651-296-5063. You can also write a letter to me. My office address at the Capitol is 229 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155.