Letter: Many ideas discussed at Reform 2.0 meetingST. PAUL — Not long ago, Minnesota House Majority Leader Matt Dean joined Representative Rod Hamilton and me at a Reform 2.0 meeting in Worthington.
By: District 22A Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, Worthington Daily Globe
ST. PAUL — Not long ago, Minnesota House Majority Leader Matt Dean joined Representative Rod Hamilton and me at a Reform 2.0 meeting in Worthington. Reform 2.0 seeks to build on last session’s successful state government redesign efforts, which some analysts project will save $2.5 billion in spending in our next budget. The goal of the meeting was to hear from local residents as to how they would reform state government and make it more efficient.
I was pleased to see roughly 30 people attend. Many of these were community leaders, school officials, business owners and health care officials.
We had a meaningful discussion and I was pleased with some of the suggestions, which included:
* Lessen the continuous rules and regulations leveled on group and nursing homes, which are not only costly for the facilities but lower staff morale.
* Explore liens on life insurance and other properties so the state can recoup some of the individual nursing home care costs, and determine who can and who should be paying their long term care. A growing trend is for elderly people to spend down their life savings prior to entering the nursing home, leaving taxpayers to pick up the tab until death, which can be a costly endeavor with nursing home costs currently averaging $6,000 a month.
* Spend state money differently. This includes curbing the amount spent by the state on nursing home satisfaction surveys and using that money to improve the facilities themselves or better compensate those who care for our elderly. In the mental health arena, it would also mean focusing state funding on substance abuse and integrating recipients back into society, which testifiers believe could save millions of dollars.
* Waive the four-month waiting period before putting dislocated workers on Minnesota Care. By making this exception, you would likely prevent these Minnesotans from seeking work in neighboring states, while easing their health care concerns while unemployed.
* Remove the prevailing wage requirement. Business owners tell us it makes it more costly to conduct business in the state, and it’s especially a problem for independent contractors who may only have one or two employees.
Other ideas were also given, and I was happy to hear that some of our area group homes are actively working with the Department of Human Services to find ways to save money, and are forming a bill that should be presented to the Legislature during the 2012 session. My thanks in advance for all of their hard work, as their initiative will make their government, and their area of expertise and employment, much more efficient.
If you were unable to attend the meeting and have a reform idea, please share it with me. Email your ideas to me at email@example.com, or call my office at 1-888-727-6307. I look forward to hearing from you!
Some folks have also begun to ask about the changes made to the Market Value Homestead Credit (MVHC) program. Basically the MVHC will become a new Market Value Homestead Exclusion (MVHE), beginning in Tax Year 2012.
This change does not mean your property taxes are automatically going to increase. MVHE eliminates the state as a middleman, applying property tax relief up-front. MVHE affects homesteads valued below $414,000, and lowers property taxes by excluding part of a home’s value from taxation. Its goal is to bring more stable system of local government finances, and was actually done at the request of the League of Minnesota Cities.
The MVHC program has been completely unreliable for local governments. In nine out of the past 10 years, local governments have been forced to deal with reductions in payments from the state for a property tax credit the state gave to homeowners directly. That means year after year, local governments would have to guess what their compensation would be, and be forced to either cut spending or raise taxes on all forms of property to make up for the shortfall. That will no longer be the case by making the switch to the MVHE.
For more information and analysis of the changes, I invite you to read this article by the League of Minnesota Cities, which can be found at: www.lmc.org/page/1/lmc-mvhc.jsp.