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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Shane Mekeland (R)

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Report from the House

Monday, April 15, 2019

Dear Neighbor,

Hello from St. Paul, where Sen. Mathews and I continue working on legislation to prevent clear-cutting at Sand Dunes State Forest. Language to address that issue has successfully been adopted by the Senate’s omnibus bill on the environment and natural resources (S.F. 2314). The amendment would place a moratorium on clear-cutting at Sand Dunes until the start of 2025.

This is a big deal for our area and I am pleased that we were able to work with the necessary officials and stakeholders to find agreement on a moratorium. This would provide more time to put an acceptable long-range management plan in place for Sand Dunes. Our work is not done, however, because we need to make sure this provision sticks in the bill as it continues to move through the process in preparation for final approval. Stay tuned.

In other news, the House has been busy putting together omnibus bills to fund various parts of the state’s budget. Democrats propose raising our taxes by $12 billion over the next four years, revealing once again a lack of priorities and a never-ending thirst for spending taxpayer dollars.

Tax increases Democrats propose would raise the costs of health care, gas (20 cents more per gallon), and countless other everyday goods and services. Oh, and at the same time, their health and human services bill cuts funding for nursing homes … at a time the state has a $1 billion surplus. Not only that, as if our government weren’t already bloated, they are looking to create more than 400 new full-time state employees … and that might be a conservative estimate.

Here are the lowlights:

  • Tax bill (tax hikes only): $4 billion
  • Transportation bill: $3.9 billion
  • Provider tax: $2.6 billion
  • Paid Family leave: $2.1 billion

I mentioned in a recent email that an investigation by the non-partisan Office of the Legislative Auditor turned up widespread fraud in the program. Last week, the OLA released a special review further evaluating the child care fraud situation in our state. The new OLA report says that program integrity controls at the Department of Human Services “are insufficient to effectively prevent, detect, and investigate fraud in Minnesota's Child Care Assistance Program.”

The report included numerous details of issues at the DHS and county levels that have compromised the state child care program’s integrity. They include:

  • “DHS and county agencies did not sufficiently leverage independent, external data sources to verify recipient eligibility for CCAP.”
  • “DHS had weak processes to validate that CCAP provider billings aligned with actual child care provided.”
  • That the payment system for CCAP (MEC squared) “lacked some key controls to identify errors and to inhibit, track, and recover improper payments.”
  • “DHS did not implement sufficient program integrity controls for licensing child care providers.”
  • “DHS did not adequately identify and analyze the risk of fraud in CCAP and had weak processes to coordinate investigations statewide.”

The majority has resisted conducting committee hearings on this issue, stating they wanted to wait for the release of this second report. OK, let’s take them at their word. The second report has been issued, significant problems remain and it’s time to crack down on this despicable fraud, waste and abuse of our tax dollars. House Republicans have put forward a package of bills that would make this happen, so let’s bring it up for discussion.

On a final note, I recently read through the Metro Update, a Met Council newsletter and came across something I found interesting:

In the newsletter, the Met Council indicates 9,000 units of affordable housing were constructed since 2011, far below the forecast need of 51,000.

Meantime, Democrats continue proposing new regulations, tax increases, etc., that make housing more expensive.

An email I sent in February mentioned that state regulations now account for one-third of the cost of building a new home, and that the cost of building a new home has made it almost impossible for builders to provide single-family housing stock that costs less than $375,000.

Just like that, government regulations play a major factor in falling 82 percent short of that affordable housing goal.



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