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Capitol Update 6 - 2013

Capitol Update 6 - 2013

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Published by Terri Bonoff
Weekly Capitol Update from Senator Terri Bonoff
Weekly Capitol Update from Senator Terri Bonoff

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Published by: Terri Bonoff on Feb 15, 2013
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Capitol Update 6
This week at the Capitol, committee time was spent reviewingagency budget proposals. I find this exercise difficult as each part of thebudget examined independently does not add up to a whole that iscertain. Therefore evaluating individual parts without understandingwhat our budget constraints are seems as though we listen with one earclosed and a hand behind our back. Again, I scratch my head at theGovernmental process. I look forward to hearing the February forecast and having the debate with regard to spending targets.Additionally, I have included a summary of this discussion in a brief video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opdpvIEWPWY
Upcoming Events
Please join us at one of our two upcoming Town Hall Meetings:Tuesday, February 19
 6:30-8:00 p.mPlymouth City Hall, 3400 Plymouth Blvd.Wednesday, February 27
w ith Representative John Benson6:30-8:00 p.mMinnetonka City Hall, 14600 Minnetonka BlvdI appreciate getting your e-mails, but, of course, having realconversation provides the greatest opportunity for building meaningfulconsensus.In other news, we have been told the public hearings on the potentialHollydale power line will take place March 6
and 7
at the MedinaEntertainment Center. As soon as we have more details we will share.
This week at the Capitol…Medical Assistance (MA) Expansion:
Thursday, the Senate passed the Medical Assistance (MA)Expansion bill. This bill expands the number of Minnesotan’s whoqualify for Medicaid. This is important because it allows our most vulnerable citizens to have medical coverage in an economicallyadvantageous way. Previously, many of these people would have beencovered under Minnesota Care, meaning that the state was paying formuch of their health care costs. Now, the federal government will bepaying for most of that share.There were attempts to amend the bill in case the federal support went below 90% in the future. I did not support the amendmentsbecause (1) we can always decide to scale back this program should that happen and (2) we know that having low income people coveredultimately saves the state tremendously and improves the overall healthof this population. In my view, the shared accountability model outlinedby the MA Expansion bill is the fiscally and morally responsible choice. Ishare the public concern over the Federal debt but rejecting thisexpansion does not lessen the debt. Enacting significant spending andtax reform lessens the debt.
Health Insurance Exchange:
, I have mentioned the Health Insurance Exchangebill that has been making it’s way through the legislature. I hadpreviously withheld my commentary because it had not come before mein committee or on the floor. However, I have been following it closelyand will hear it next Tuesday in Finance. While I support this exchangein concept, I see areas of improvement that I think should be addressedbefore it moves beyond the Senate.For instance, there is a provision that gives broad authority to aselect group of people to decide which providers can offer products inthis Health Care Exchange. It seems to me that a stronger approachwould be to enact standard criteria that we expect products andproviders to fulfill and then only those that meet the criteria could beincluded in the Exchange. This would eliminate subjectivity in theprocess and instead rely on data-driven decision making. Currently,providers will need to invest a great deal of time and money to complywith the demands of this new marketplace. If they face uncertainty with
regard to their acceptance into the marketplace they will be less likelyto make this investment. We in Minnesota will only have a high qualityexchange if we have high quality providers as participants.First estimates of cost are significantly higher than I had expected.I believe this is in large part because these estimated costs are assuminga much larger participation rate than data would predict. Yet, byforecasting this large amount we commit to building infrastructure toserve that level. I prefer an approach that estimates conservatively andinstead would scale up once the demand is realized.Finally, in the past decade Minnesota has made tremendous gainsin health care reform by gathering all stakeholders together to generatebuy in, trust and best practices. The results have been outstanding. Thisbill precludes providers from having equal input in the exchange design.They are excluded under an assumption of, “a conflict of interest”. Ireject that approach. I think the design team must include the checksand balances that come from having each sector equally at the table. Iwill work to make these changes. You may hear me express theseconcerns in future discussions, as sometimes our only avenue forexpression is our vote.
494 Expansion:
This week, I got the opportunity to testify in front of theTransportation committee to make the case for expanding Highway 494in Plymouth. Joined by Mayor Kelli Slavik and TwinWest ChamberDirector, Judy Johnson (as well as Plymouth City Council member), Iargued for a permanent fix to the awful congestion plaguing ourhighway. For those of you who live in Plymouth or drive through, youare certainly aware that this fix is long overdue.It is important to note that the transportation committee does not determine which road projects are funded. However they do set direction. This decision-making ability is left up to the MinnesotaDepartment of Transportation (MnDOT).Currently, MnDOT has proposed a short-term solution to theproblem that would cost $34 million. They propose to use striping andsignage to create a “dynamic shoulder” which would open the shoulderfor regular use during peak traffic times. Our proposal provides a long-term fix that expends $50 million. It does not make sense to spend asignificant amount of money to get a short term solution when you cansolve the problem permanently by paying a relatively small amount more.

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