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Letter: Hamilton - I'm fighting for long-term care facilities, nursing homes

During a comprehensive health and human services finance bill debate on the Minnesota House floor, I -- as well as other rural lawmakers -- made the attempt to give nursing homes and long-term care facilities and their employees much-needed funding increases. It's almost unimaginable to think that the House majority wants to increase spending by $3 billion, and raise taxes on hardworking Minnesotans by $2.6 billion, yet are cutting health spending by $150 million.

I joined a bipartisan coalition this session that pledged $56 million in additional revenue for nursing homes and long-term care facilities. This would have provided a 5 percent rate increase over each of the next two years, with 75 percent of that amount being used for employee raises.

Instead, the Democrats' health and human services bill buys a $21 million rate increase by raiding $26 million from other nursing home funds. This means nursing homes and senior living facilities will have to absorb these cuts in their own budgets to make up the difference, which will be particularly damaging to Greater Minnesota.

The Democrats' plan is even more insulting when you consider the new revenue they found for their other priorities this session, including $200 million for a health exchange website; $5 million for a bailout for St. Paul's River Center; $5 million to unionize daycare; $40 million for Metro Transit; $7 million for a Minneapolis sculpture garden; $3.4 million for snowmaking equipment; $2.5 million for bus passes for Metro-area teenagers; $1 million to fund trips for artists to travel to Bora Bora; and $1 million to allow convicted felons to pay their rent.

Though the attempt to provide long-term care facilities and nursing homes with new revenue failed, I will continue his fight to give them the resources they deserve. Countless nursing homes have said they would be better off under current law rather than making the irresponsible, damaging changes proposed by the Democrats. These facilities are among our most-needed employers in rural Minnesota, and we cannot afford to abandon them or the residents who need their services.