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Letter: '5 percent' bill lumped unfairly with big spending

By District 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake

The “5 Percent Campaign,” which increases funding for disabled residents and their caregivers by 5 percent, has now been approved in the Minnesota House — but not without controversy.

The legislation was one among dozens that were recently cobbled together by the legislative majority in order to create a 436-page supplemental budget bill. This mega-bill contains a significant number of troublesome and costly provisions.

It’s frustrating not only to me as a legislator, but to the people I represent. Numerous times I tried to force a vote on the 5 Percent Campaign as a stand-alone proposal, but the majority party refused to allow it.

The supplemental budget increases state government spending by more than $300 million for the remainder of this biennium, and by nearly $1 billion for fiscal years 2016-17. This is in addition to the $3 billion in new spending Democrats approved last year.

The worst of the new expenses is a $442 million state taxpayer bailout of Obamacare/MNsure. Nearly every agency within state government will also receive new funding under this proposal.

The only reason Democrats did this was to entice Republicans to vote for more spending. So I could either vote for it because it included the 5 Percent Campaign, or against it because it bailed out MNSure, spent millions to develop more transit options in the Twin Cities, and unfairly distributed pothole repair money to nearly every city in my district.

I worked hard on the 5 Percent Campaign, and lawmakers had the chance to show caregivers how they really feel by voting on the proposal on its own. Had that happened, it would have flown off the House floor with overwhelming bipartisan support. Instead, it became one provision among many in this supplemental budget bill, and is the reason it was approved on a party-line vote.