February 12, 2010
State of the State Message
Governor Pawlenty delivered his final State of the State address on Thursday morning from the House Chamber. Pawlenty described the state as facing an "epic crisis" and urged the Legislature to put job creation, the only "true source of revenue," as its first priority. This is the Governor's sixth time delivering the State of the State address while the state has faced a deficit. Pawlenty also outlined his other priorities which include increasing sentences for sexual predators and drunk driving. He also suggested turning control of St. Paul and Minneapolis school districts over to the mayors of those cities, something that would require a change in law.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed a nearly $1 billion bonding bill that it hopes will set the foundation for immediate job creation. Governor Pawlenty has indicated that he will veto or line-item veto the bill calling it "unaffordable and irresponsible." In January, Pawlenty outlined what he would like to see in a bonding bill which included projects limited to those with a state wide impact and was disappointed to see the bill filled with local projects. The House will take up its bonding bill on Monday and the conference committee on the bill will begin meeting next week.
Governor Pawlenty defended his unallottment of the state budget on Tuesday in a brief filed with the Minnesota Supreme Court. Ramsey County District Court Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled in December that unallottment budget cuts made by Pawlenty last summer were illegal. Only one budget cut was in question in that lawsuit, a cut to a program to feed the poor, but Gearin's ruling questions all $2.7 billion of the Governor's budget cuts. The Court is expediting its consideration of the Governor's appeal.
The DFL controlled State Senate voted Thursday to extend General Assistance Medical Care on a 45-20 vote. The GAMC program was cut last year by virtue of unallotments by Governor Pawlenty. The GAMC fix is a temporary 16 month solution to provide coverage for approximately 85,000 Minnesotans who would either lose coverage or be transferred to MinnesotaCare, a state-run health program. The bill's author, Senator Linda Berglin (DFL-Minneapolis) reworked the bill hours before it came to floor after the Governor indicated his unwillingness to support the funding mechanism in the original bill, a surcharge on hospitals, which the Governor referred to as "money laundering."
Berglin's amendment on the floor of the Senate took out the surcharge and offered a reduced package for the bill. The amendment maintains coverage for enrollees but makes deep cuts to reimbursements to doctors providing coverage for GAMC patients. It also cuts health and community grants to counties by almost $20 million which is then used to fund the GAMC fix. The Republicans cried foul and wanted more time to read the amendment introduced by Berglin. stating they wanted to try to fix the problem but needed to understand the complexities in the amendment. It is still not clear if the Governor will support this version of the bill. The companion bill in the House is authored by Representative Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul).
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