Letter: Senate making good progess on budgetLast week, the Senate passed nine of the bills that comprise our proposal for financing state government and the programs it funds from the state General Fund.
By: Dist. 22 Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, Worthington Daily Globe
Last week, the Senate passed nine of the bills that comprise our proposal for financing state government and the programs it funds from the state General Fund. These bills fund agriculture, environment, energy, commerce and consumer protection, jobs and economic growth, judiciary and public safety, K-12 education, higher education, health and human services, and state government operations.
Together, these bills create a budget that operates within our means, and invests our resources into the programs, groups and departments that are our core responsibilities. We cover the most vulnerable in responsible health care and public safety programs and make education reforms that increase overall funding in general K-12 and special education funding.
We still have much work ahead to finalize the budget. However, it is significant to note that the passage of a full budget plan in committees by the end of March affords the Legislature ample time to continue its work in the open, rather than requiring last minute deals and late-night meetings as has happened in the past.
Here are some highlights from a few of the budget bills that we passed last week:
Health and Human Services: The proposed Senate health care budget spends $10.9 billion in the next two-year budget cycle. This is a 6 percent increase from current Health and Human Services spending, while cutting $1.6 billion from projected increases for FY 2012-13. The measure is based on efforts to reform state-subsidized health care delivery systems, and focuses on moving government regulation of the health care industry to a more incentive-based approach by implementing consumer-friendly policies like tax deductions or health savings accounts. Although this bill reforms how health care funding is allocated, it is important to note that the projected growth in Health and Human Services spending is not sustainable.
The bill contains significant reform by including the reinstatement of General Assistance Medical Care, the development of a new health care program called The Healthy Minnesota Defined Contribution Program, the development of a new grant program called the Adult Assistance program (merging GA, EMSA, and MSA special needs into one block grant program), and county streamlining and mandate relief.
State government: The State Government Innovation and Veterans omnibus budget bill right-sizes state government spending and find efficiencies in state government through consolidation, agency reform and spending reductions.
The Legislature, the Office of the Legislative Auditor and the Legislative Coordinating Commission all see reductions of 5 percent. Constitutional officers see reductions in their operating budgets ranging from 15-20 percent. A wide variety of state agencies have targeted reductions from as low as five percent, up to 20 percent.
A key provision of this comprehensive package requires the executive branch to reduce the number of state agency employees by 15 percent by June 15, 2015. An appointing authority may use attrition, a hiring freeze, early retirement incentives authorized in the bill, furloughs, and layoffs to accomplish this reduction. Over the next biennium, this reduction of the state’s workforce is estimated to save over $70 million in General Fund money.
This week: We will continue to process the remaining budget bills — the transportation omnibus bill and a tax bill that will provide a solid tax relief package to individuals, businesses and property owners across Minnesota — and prepare them for joint conference committee to iron out differences with their House companions and ready them for presentment to the governor.