Greetings from the House, where we have another round of divisive and generally ill-advised bills House Democrats are advancing to discuss this week.
Here’s a look:
Fraud, waste and abuse
House Democrats approved two bills on Monday – H.F. 13 (Child Care Assistance Program) and H.F. 150 (Early learning scholarships and child care stabilization grants) that spend hundreds of millions more taxpayer dollars on child-related state programs that have been rife with fraud.
In 2018, CCAP was the subject of fraud allegations exceeding $100 million. The full extent of the fraud never was itemized or determined, which leaves us to draw our own conclusions. Then came the $250 million scam involving Feeding Our Future, which had overlaps into CCAP and other state-managed programs.
The latest OLA report and the 2019 CCAP report provide comprehensive details but, in short, an extreme lack of accountability has allowed “pervasive noncompliance” to occur regarding Office Grant Management policies – especially through the Minnesota Department of Education.
H.F. 13 raises reimbursement rates for providers in CCAP and appropriates over $350 million during the upcoming biennium to pay for that program. If we are going to increase CCAP spending, taxpayers deserve to know this money will reach the intended target, helping families obtain child care while parents are working or attending school. Unfortunately, The CCAP bill House Democrats approved fails on all accounts. It will not mitigate, much less eradicate, pervasive fraud, waste and abuse of these dollars to adequately ensure this money reaches the people to whom it is intended to help.
H.F. 150 provides grants and scholarships for early learners, including the worthy aspect of empowering parents to make education choices they think are best for their children. That said, child care stabilization grant funding in the bill is concerning. First, child care centers closely linked to those indicted by federal authorities in the Feeding Our Future scandal, and even centers facing license revocations, are still being funded by these grants. It also provides funding per employee, rather than per child, which is problematic. These tax dollars should be linked to the child, not the provider.
House Democrats approved both bills on partisan votes. The floor discussion emphasizes the differing approaches: House Republicans want to target these appropriations and provide care for the kids most in need. House Democrats just want to write blank checks, leaving taxpayer dollars vulnerable to continued fraud, waste and abuse.
The House majority last night approved a bill with sweeping changes to Minnesota’s existing laws regarding employee leave.
There are numerous reasons for concern with this bill (H.F. 19), specifically how new mandates will damage Minnesota’s job creators and Main Street businesses who are still recovering from COVID, while also facing ongoing inflation, supply chain issues and workforce shortages. This certainly will increase labor costs at a time our goal should be to avoid placing additional burdens and mandates on our job providers who are doing their best to keep their doors open and Minnesotans employed.
Furthermore, this bill does not include most of the employer protections under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, such as employers with less than 50 employees being exempt. This language applies to all Minnesota employers who employ one or more persons, in one-size-fits-all fashion.
Paid family leave
As problematic as the sick time bill appears, House Democrats are moving an even more concerning proposal – H.F. 2, related to paid family leave – through the committee process. I met with a constituent group from the local business community this week. They said they were told by a Democrat member to “leave the state then” if they couldn't survive the financial impact of the paid family medical leave scheme.
Elections have consequences and it is becoming more clear each day one of those consequences in 2023 is raging, mandate-fueling arrogance among Democrats..
House Democrats also recently passed a bill (H.F. 5) providing universal “free” school meals statewide, with one breakfast and one lunch would be guaranteed every school day for any student who wants them.
Free and reduced-price breakfasts and lunches already are available to students whose families qualify. The House Democrat bill casts a wide net across all students to not only cover lower income families, but also the highest earners in our state. In other words, House Democrats are spending an estimated $400 hundred million in the upcoming biennium to make meals “free” regardless of whether students and their families can afford them.
Sheer dollars aside, I do not support this one-size-fits-all approach, and this mandated funding. School districts such as ours, St. Michael-Albertville, are in dire need of flexible funding in light of being shorted dollars by flaws in the state’s education funding formula. This bill is just one more pot of funding tied to categorical mandates that handcuff local decisions.
The Democrats’ failed economic policies have caused hard-working Minnesota families to struggle to make ends meet – from bigger grocery bills to higher gas and beyond. Adjusting the current free/reduced lunch guidelines to include those on the edge of eligibility would be a better solution to help families struggling in the Biden/Walz economy instead of forcing taxpayers to subsidize even the wealthiest Minnesota families.
Please stay in touch and, as always, your feedback is welcome.