What we have here is a failure to enumerate.
As reported earlier today, two Dayton administration commissioners sent a detailed letter to the Republican legislative leadership today saying the GOP budgets in the House and Senate don’t add up. In fact, there are wide $1 billion-plus gaps in each chamber’s state budget plans.
Hours later, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, Speaker Kurt Zellers and Sen. David Hann, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said, no, actually, mostly, their numbers do add up.
And a major factor in that addition is the necessity of a federal waiver on how the state can spend health care dollars. To gain that waiver, the Republican leaders said, they need Gov. Mark Dayton’s support. But in the letter from Commissioners Myron Frans of the Revenue Department and Jim Schowalter of Minnesota Management and Budget, they told the GOP leaders that such waivers, altering the way the feds send money back to the state, are “unobtainable.”
In a low-key, informational Capitol press gathering, filled with no political vitriol, Sen. Koch and Rep. Zellers expressed surprise at the commissioners’ letter. The two GOP lawmakers received them minutes after having what they considered a cordial and productive breakfast with Gov. Dayton on budget matters and how best to evaluate the numbers used in devising budgets.
Sen. Koch acknowledged: “There are some numbers issues in there that we will have to resolve before we can finish a budget deal.” She added later, “I think you’re going to see some movement [on the numbers]. We want the governor to be comfortable with the numbers. We want to be comfortable with the numbers.”
But, clearly, these federal health waivers — about $600 million worth in the GOP Senate budget — are going to be in the middle of any state budget solution. If they’re not, the GOP will have a big hole. If they are, the governor will have changed his position.
“We think the governor should be leading in the state of Minnesota to tell the federal government that we want elected officials in Minnesota making decisions about health care and not the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington,” said Hann.
“To say that they’re completely off the table or unobtainable, that’s what we’re here to do, negotiate,” Hann said, adding that he thinks the numbers in the GOP Health and Human Services bill are “good numbers.”
Reporters questioned the real likelihood of Dayton taking on the Obama Administration’s health care approach.
“The numbers work,” said Hann. “We put forward a proposal that was entirely defensible … If he’s not willing to work with us on that proposal, what proposal is he willing to work with us on, which has to do with seeking relief from the federal government?”
Dayton has proposed a $2 billion tax hike. Republican leaders are steadfast in opposing that.
Said Koch: “There’s not support for an increase in taxes.”
Still, said Zellers of the process at the Capitol, with GOP-led conference committees working on House and Senate differences, with an Easter/Passover break on the horizon and with a May 23 deadline approaching: “This is the time now to engage.”
But first they need to reconcile their numbers , which are at the foundation of their differences.