State Budget: A Breakdown for issues of interest to MNA Nurses

21 Jul

Gov. Mark Dayton

At 3:45 am on July 20, the legislature completed their work on the state budget, after a special session was called just a little over 12 hours earlier. The Governor and legislative GOP leaders agreed to the budget bills, which were then sent to the Senate and House with very little time for legislators and the public to review the bills. There were no opportunities for amendments to be made to the bills.

The Governor signed all 12 budget bills this morning, officially ending the state government shutdown. State employees will have to report back to work starting at 6 a.m. on Thursday.

MNA staff is still combing through the bills, but below is an initial summary of wins and losses on MNA priorities:

Overall Budget

WIN:  Restored $1.4 billion in cuts made in the original GOP budget that the Governor vetoed in May.

LOSS:     $1.4 million in new revenue was found through accounting shifts, including a school funding shift, rather than through a tax on millionaires. MNA will continue to advocate a fair taxation system that requires the richest to pay their fair share.

Health and Human Services

WIN:  The Interstate Nurse Licensure Compact was not included in the final budget. It was part of the original GOP Health and Human Services bill, which the Governor vetoed in May.

WIN:  Willmar Community Transitional Services shall not close before March 31, 2012. This mental health facility, where the nurses are represented by MNA, was originally slated for closure this year. The MNA nurses at Willmar CTS have some creative ideas for cost savings and we are optimistic that we can work together with the Department of Human Services to find a way to continue to provide this important patient care in Willmar.

WIN:  For licenses and registrations due to be renewed between July 1 and July 21, 2011, the Board of Nursing can’t assess a late fee or initiate disciplinary action against a licensee or registrant for failure to timely renew a valid license or registration if the renewal application is submitted to the board by July 31, 2011.

LOSS: The bill includes the Healthy Minnesota program, which essentially privatizes MinnesotaCare for 8,000 adults without children at or above 200% of the federal poverty level ($21,780 for one person). They will receive vouchers to buy insurance coverage on the private market.

WIN:  Early Medical Assistance expansion will continue. This was signed by Governor Dayton through executive order in his first few days in office to provide more efficient and effective health care to the poorest and most vulnerable, who had previously been covered by General Assistance Medical Care. The earlier GOP HHS budget repealed the MA expansion. This is a victory for the extremely poor and vulnerable patients who receive this care, as well as for the nurses and health care providers who care for them.

WIN:  The bill does not change eligibility for Minnesotans receiving state health insurance. The earlier GOP HHS bill was estimated to cut 140,000 off health care, which would have increased uncompensated care and resulted in nearly $1 billion in losses to Minnesota hospitals.

LOSS: The bill makes provider reimbursement rate cuts for MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance. Provider rates for public programs area already low, and some patient advocates are concerned that this bill will cause fewer providers to serve patients on public programs.

There were lots of changes to mental health programs. Please see the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) alert for details.

State Government

WIN:  An earlier plan to move state employees from the State Employee Group Insurance Program (SEGIP) to aHealth Savings Account was not included. There is language in the bill to study the issue.

WIN:  The 15 percent workforce reduction by 2015 and salary freeze for state workers are not in the final bill.The GOP bill vetoed by the Governor included these attacks on public employees.

WIN:  State employees who were laid off during the shutdown will get a service credit toward their retirement plan as if they had never been laid off, if they accept recall.

Public Safety

WIN:      All of MNA’s concerns regarding changes to Department of Corrections nurses’ pensions and health care were  removed from this bill.

Taxes

LOSS:     Governor Dayton’s proposal to tax the richest Minnesotans was not included in a final budget deal. He had originally proposed increasing taxes on the top 5%, then revised his proposal to tax only the top 2%. His final tax proposal only increased taxes on millionaires (the top 0.3 percent, about 7,700 people). The GOP rejected all of these proposals. The wealthiest Minnesotans will continue to pay a smaller percentage of their income in state and local taxes than the rest of us do, so MNA will keep up the fight for fair taxes that make everyone pay their fair share.

Please use MNA’s Grassroots Action Center to contact your state elected officials to let them know your thoughts about the budget.

Click the link below to log in and send your message:
http://www.votervoice.net/groups/MNA/advocacy/?IssueID=25843&AdminPreview=True&SiteID=-1

 

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