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Amid budget negotiations, Daudt steps back from plan to scrap MinnesotaCare

MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
Speaker Kurt Daudt, far right, leading the Republican leadership to talks at the governor's residence on Wednesday.

It’s the little things: the smiles from Minnesota’s top political leaders as they walk in and out of the governor’s residence in St. Paul, a double thumbs-up from a state lawmaker as he exits a meeting, brief glimpses of negotiators sharing lighthearted conversation in the foyer. 

It’s not much, but it’s all reporters got at the end of three full days of negotiations between tight-lipped state leaders as they try to close a deal on the state’s two-year, $40 billion budget and figure out how to spend a nearly $2 billion budget surplus.

Time is running short. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt have just a few days to close a deal, process all the paperwork, move budget bills through committees and put them up for votes on the House and Senate floors.

But they are making progress, leaders say. That was evident Wednesday as a parade of key legislators, commissioners and fiscal staffers shuttled in and out of the Governor’s Residence (that’s where negotiations have taken place as the Capitol undergoes restoration). Meetings started around noon and stretched on until 10:30 p.m., with plans to pick up again Thursday morning.

The mood was lighter Wednesday at the residence than it had been earlier in the week, when negotiations ended abruptly Monday evening. Feelings were still sour on Tuesday as Daudt entered the residence, saying Dayton wouldn’t be “stupid” enough to go to a scheduled fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign later that evening. Dayton did take a break in negotiations to attend, but after the comment, Daudt and Bakk stopped talking to the throng of reporters staked out outside the residence all week.

They still have big issues to sort through, however, including what to do with a DFL plan to raise gas taxes and other fees to pay for transportation projects for the next decade. Republicans say they are unwilling and unable to round up the votes for the proposal, but Democrats seem equally unenthused by a GOP plan to spend all the surplus and then some on $2 billion in tax cuts. 

Some details have slowly emerged. Daudt seems to be moving away from a House GOP plan to eliminate MinnesotaCare, a health insurance program that covers 90,000 low-income people who make too much to qualify for Medicaid. The program’s main funding source will sunset in 2019. Before entering negotiations on Tuesday, Daudt said he could consider a gradual shift of MinnesotaCare enrollees on to MNsure, the state’s health insurance exchange, and Democrats have floated the idea of setting up a task force to look at the program’s future. 

Meanwhile, back at the Capitol, Republicans in the Senate on Wednesday tried to move a bill that would keep the “lights on” — essentially allow state government to run in the event lawmakers don’t reach a deal by July 1, the start of the next fiscal year. The move failed on a party-line vote, but it raised the specter of possible overtime this session.

On the House floor, DFL Minority Leader Paul Thissen prodded Republican Majority Leader Joyce Peppin for details on the ongoing negotiations, particularly if Republicans had made any concessions to Democrats in control of the other branches of government.

Peppin mostly ignored the questions, but she did acknowledge that there has been “some movement.”  “We have put some offers forward.”

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Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 05/14/2015 - 10:42 am.

    A change of heart, a change of mind or good fishing?

    I respect people who can change their opinion on an issue; politicians or otherwise… and this news speaks well of one Republican, Daudt if he follows his conscience whatever?

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/14/2015 - 12:36 pm.

    Kind of funny actually

    Back when republicans were all bullish about shutting down the government they voted down DFL attempts to pass “light on” on legislation. Maybe they’ve finally figured out that shut downs are NOT a great example of governance? It remains to be seen whether or not they can actually avoid a shut down despite themselves.

    I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall when Dayton and Bakk schooled Daudt on the intelligence of calling someone your negotiating with “stupid” and otherwise hurling insults and innuendo through the media… I’m sure Dayton and Bakk had a word or two about that the next day.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/14/2015 - 06:55 pm.

      Tax and Spend

      I am more interested to see if the DFL folks can back away from their dream of taxing and spending more, or if they are going to cause a government shutdown??? It would be nice if they would focus on prioritizing their current budget and making government more cost effective. Maybe they will learn about good governance from the GOP…

      I am still puzzled why MN needs to fund Medicaid expansion, ACA (MN Sure) and Minn Care… I thought ACA was the answer.

      • Submitted by Solly Johnson on 05/14/2015 - 10:18 pm.

        borrow and spend

        “learn about good governance from the GOP”

        What a joke. The party of Tony Sutton that does not pay its bills. The party of Pawlenty that borrows from school districts and spends it by giving big tax breaks to corporations. The party of Bush that puts an ill-advised war on the credit card. The party of “family values” that has another controversy with the speaker of the Missouri house. The party that claims to value the troops, but gives them virtually nothing when they return home. One can go on and on about the party of fiscal responsibility, family values, God, etc.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/15/2015 - 07:25 am.

          I agree

          I whole heartedly agree that the GOP folks, like the DFL folks, have their problems. And I hope they can work together to attain a balanced middle path.

          The DFL seems to support giving other people’s money to many people whether they are truly in need or not, trying to solve private sector issues with more government spending/regulation and protecting ineffective/inefficient public employees. The GOP seems to like cutting taxes before the spending is reduced.

          Hopefully together they can find a way to help the truly needy, pressure the free loaders to improve their circumstances and make better decisions, pressure the government agencies to be more efficient and effective with our tax dollars.

          • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 05/15/2015 - 08:31 am.

            The “freeloaders” are the corporations

            And other businesses including farmers who readily accept subsidies, avoid taxes and yet complain about infrastructure and pollution control measures. Right!

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/15/2015 - 12:55 pm.

              Can Be

              There can be free loading businesses and farmers, just as there can be free loading individuals. However can you think of any subsidies and tax deductions /credits that businesses and farmers get without government behavioral requirements. (ie you do this, we pay this)

              I think the welfare, medicaid, etc payments have many fewer conditions tied to them.

              By the way, do you think there are citizens who free load on the rest of us?

      • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 05/14/2015 - 11:55 pm.

        The Democrats tried

        to learn good governance from Pawlenty, but we all know what kind of a disaster that led to. We could see Pawlenty wasn’t the answer so we switched to George W. Bush for the answers and that was a total disaster. We looked at Sam Brownback method of governance and decided that wasn’t the way either. It turned out the GOP is loaded with criticisms, but no answers. Governor Dayton is the one who stabilized the Republican mess Pawlenty left behind so he is the answer.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/15/2015 - 07:35 am.

          Business Cycles

          I assume you support the government holding enough of our private money at all times to ensure they do not need to borrow when the private sector is in recession.

          I personally prefer that government borrow some when the private sector is in recession and pay it back when the private sector is booming. This allows you, me and all the other tax payers to use that money or invest it as we wish.

          The school shift and other “gimmicks” were simply techniques to allow the government to borrow short term in the middle of a major recession. Then they would have been paid back when the recession ended. Which happened.

          However then the DFL and Dayton decided to unnecessarily increase tax rates so we ended up with the State holding more of our money than they needed. Which means it is in their wallet, not ours. Bummer.

          • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 05/15/2015 - 08:25 am.

            Personally I do like the Government

            to be run in a responsible manner not banging from pillar to post kicking the can down the road and leaving the mess for someone else to clean up. Reference my first comments if you are wondering what I mean. You are right the school shift was paid back – by the Democrats. If you like massive debt and having to pay interest on the borrowed money you are in the right party. There isn’t any justification for what Bush and Pawlenty did no matter how hard you and the rest of the GOP try. If you like the GOP wars on women, minorities, immigration reform, and common sense you are in the right party. If you like wars in general you are in the right party. Your party even put a war on the credit card just because they wanted to go to war in Iraq. Not much good to hang your hat on in the GOP.

      • Submitted by Bill Willy on 05/15/2015 - 12:13 am.

        We can only hope

        The DFL tax and spend dream is a small potatoes black and white short compared to the 3-D Cinemax Don’t Stop Believin’ Fantasy Tour of Deficit Canyon playing at the House.

        Which is a big part of the reason we can only hope those wily Republicans will trick the Governor and the Senate into a shutdown by getting them to refuse to agree to the terms dictated by the awesome legislation they’ve put together this session.

        But on a slightly more disagreeable note, I’m afraid I have to say that learning good governance from the GOP would be like learning to swim from a barrel of rocks.

        And I have to say I’m a little surprised you don’t seem to get it when it comes to the ACA and MNSure. A little surprising for such a free market kind of guy, but I guess it can happen sometimes… Thing is, everybody in the know knows the ACA and MNSure were nothing more than a secret handshake deal designed to set up yet another gigantic mechanism to funnel even more government money to the private sector, the biggest recipient of taxpayer dollars in the history of the planet. Funny you make so much noise about it. You must not have gotten the “Be sure to keep a low profile” memo from headquarters.

        And, as far as the private sector is concerned, the only thing wrong with MinnesotaCare is that it doesn’t transfer those dollars to them fast enough. It’s not a matter of whether or not they get them, it’s only a matter of pace. And besides, if the Democrats are dumb enough to not go along with Matt Dean’s plan to get rid of it, it will give Republicans a fantastic slam dunk issue to run on in 2016.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/15/2015 - 07:42 am.


          I am moderately okay with ACA/Minn Sure and Medicaid Expansion. I mean they are additional welfare where tax payers pay for the health insurance of other citizens, it is costing us tax payers a lot, but overall I can live with that. My biggest problem with ACA is the billions of dollars that it took to setup, market and run those unnecessary problematic exchanges.

          But MinnCare seems very redundent and unnecessary since we are already paying citizens and bureaucrats via the above mentioned programs.

          • Submitted by Bill Willy on 05/15/2015 - 09:45 am.

            A challenge for you

            Knowing how great you believe the competition-driven paragon of efficiency the private sector is, and knowing how inefficient and onerous the you believe the government to be, and what low-functioning slobs government employees are in your eyes, and seeing as how the sub-subject here seems to government health care insurance provision inefficiencies, I was wondering if you’d be willing to do a tiny bit of experimental leg work and get back to us with the results. If you’re up for it (and I think you’d find it interesting), when you get a few extra minutes:

            1) Call up a couple of your local hospitals; and

            2) Tell them you’re in the market for a new hip; and

            3) Ask them how much it would cost you to get one at their place of business.

            It doesn’t necessarily need to be a new hip. It could be anything you’d like to know about. Maybe checking in for a couple of days to have a checkup that included whatever options they’d recommend, but for sure an MRI scan.

            You know… Kind of the same way you might call Disney World, or a cruise line, or an airline and hotel or two for a trip to San Francisco?

            See what they say. See how the competition stacks up and let us know what you find out, would you?

            Or if, for some reason, your local hospitals can’t provide you with the type of service you’d expect, maybe call your health care insurance provider, ask them the same thing, and let us know what they say instead.

            I’ll be looking forward to hearing about how you rate the service, their ultra-streamlined process, their ability to provide you with the kind of information savvy consumers expect and need to make those informed decision that allow them to take full advantage of the fierce competition the free market provides.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/15/2015 - 01:13 pm.


              “how inefficient and onerous you believe the government to be, and what low-functioning slobs government employees are in your eyes”

              A. There are bad, good and excellent performing public employees. Just like in most business. However systems that reward and protect all equally based on years will over pay the poor and keep them employed. And it will under pay and/or burn out the excellent employees. Not a good model when we know that people make the performance difference, not years served.

              One of my co-workers wanted to be a “Flight Controller”, so he got his training and quit his Engineering job. He came back within 6 months because of union rigidity and waste.

              B. Other people’s money… The reality is that goods and services have value because you personally choose what to spend on them. The government spend and processes do not have that benefit. What is the incentive of a social worker and/or other bureacrat to solve problems permanently and reduce spending in their department?

              I agree that getting quotes is hard. I am not sure if it is the businesses involved, all of the government regulations at play, the variations within customer conditions / insurance and/or the fear of being sued because it cost significantly more than their initial quote due to some complication occurring.

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