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Dayton touts health care savings, pleads ignorance of tipboard gambling

The news conference was called to boast about his administration saving $73 million because of the “voluntary” 1 percent cap on HMO profits.

Gov. Mark Dayton, shown here during his first week in office, today touched on a wide array of topics.

Gov. Mark Dayton held one of those wide-ranging news conferences this morning, covering everything from health care savings to tipboards.

The governor, by the way, says he’s never played the tipboards, a variation of a sports-betting tool being proposed as a possible charitable-gambling backfill for funding a Vikings stadium.

“I don’t even know what a tipboard is,” Dayton said. “I’ve found politics a surer way to lose my money.”

The governor had no predictions on the fate of the Vikings stadium. He did express appreciation that the stadium did pass through a House committee Monday night.

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The news conference was called to boast about how his administration has learned it’s saved $73 million because of the “voluntary” 1 percent cap on profits agreed to last year by the state’s major HMOs.

Dayton praised the work of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson in negotiating the 1 percent arrangement with HealthPartners, Medica, UCare and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Half of those savings will be sent to the federal government, but the remainder will end up in the general fund, where the Legislature will decide how funding will be used. Already there is pressure building for the $36.5 million to be used to restore cuts previously made for personal care attendants.

This 1 percent arrangement was a one-time deal. But unlike in the past, competitive bidding with the HMOs is expected to bring even greater savings to the state. The administration predicts that the combination of caps and competitive bidding, along with other reforms, will generate more than $500 million in savings to taxpayers in the next biennium.

“We are transforming the way we pay for health care,” Jesson said. “We’ve closed the door on the way we’ve done business in the past.”

On other subjects:

• Dayton was asked about the accomplishments of this year’s Legislature.

“I’ll quote Phil Krinkie [conservative head of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota],” Dayton said. “ ‘A do-nothing session.’ ”

Then Dayton attempted to wiggle away from that summation by pointing out that he merely was quoting Krinkie.

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“I wouldn’t say it’s do-nothing,” Dayton said. “It’s just disappointing they haven’t done more, especially regarding jobs.”

In general, he said, this has been “a very political session” with all focus on November’s elections.

• He pointed to the Republican bill that will arrive on his desk soon that would use reserves to pay back school funding shifts. He made it sound as if he’ll almost certainly veto that bill, even though outwardly it may seem appealing to many Minnesotans.

“They’re solving one problem by creating another,” Dayton said of the bill. “It kicks another problem down the road. I understand the political strategy, but somebody has to be responsible — that’s me.”

• He also made it clear that he’ll likely veto any education bill that would eliminate the protection of teacher seniority. He expressed empathy for teachers, saying that legislative actions have “demoralized” many in the profession.