At the end of this past legislative session, Governor Pawlenty vetoed funding for General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC), which provides health care to 70,000 (about 35,000 in any given month) of the poorest and sickest Minnesotans each year. Recipients on GAMC earn less than $7,500 per year and about 80% of those served have serious mental health issues. GAMC funding is set to expire on March 1, 2010.
Since session adjourned, we have been working on a solution that will preserve basic health care for the most vulnerable Minnesotans. In July, Health Policy committee members visited nine safety net hospitals all over the state to hear about the need to continue providing basic health care benefits to this medically needy population. Since August, we have held meetings with hospitals, health plans, providers, unions, counties, representatives of the faith community, safety net organizations, grass roots organizations, mental health advocates, and many others to discuss policy and financing alternatives for GAMC.
After a lot of listening, we are moving forward with our proposal to temporarily restore GAMC for 16 months in order to build a bridge to national health care reform. Temporary GAMC will offer access to basic care for those currently enrolled, protect vital health care jobs, and restore the solvency of the Health Care Access Fund through 2012. Funded entirely without new taxes, the solution relies largely on cost saving reforms, maximizing existing state and federal health care funding streams, and reduced provider reimbursement rates to pay for a pared down GAMC.
You can view our proposal online: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/comm/committee.asp?comm=86118.
This plan is not perfect, and there are issues we need to continue working on, but inaction is not an option. In the coming weeks before session, we will continue to work collaboratively with health care stakeholders as well as with the Governor and Republicans on a bipartisan solution that is in the best interest of all Minnesotans.
This morning, Lori Sturdavent writes about the session ahead and its challenges. Read it here http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentary/79092092.html?elr=KArksc8P:Pc:UthPacyPE7iUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aULPQL7PQLanchO7DiUr
Next step in this process will come on Monday, December 14th when we hold a public hearing to discuss various GAMC proposals. As always, I look forward to your input and perspective.
Posted on Sunday, December 13, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
Casey Selix of MinnPost wrote this story which digs into the complexity of GAMC and efforts to rebuild health coverage for 35,000 sick and poor Minnesotans.
Read it here:
Posted on Friday, October 16, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
Legislative Leadership Institute on Child Development Research and Policy
Dear Mighty Citizens,
I wanted to share with you some information about a legislative conference I will be attending later this month. From Monday, November 9 through Wednesday, November 11 I will be attending the Legislative Leadership Institute on Child Development Research and Policy, sponsored by the Council of State Governments Midwestern Office and The Minnesota Community Foundation.
The Institute is designed to build knowledge and understanding of the science of brain development, and how the experiences of children ages birth to three affect development, health and social outcomes across the life span.
It’s an honor to be nominated by my colleagues to attend the Institute and I am eager to learn more from these nationally known researchers about how early experiences build the brain’s architecture and develop a weak or strong foundation for life.
Here is a list of the primary presenters: Richard Chase, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, Wilder Foundation. Dr. Chase will unveil the findings from the Minnesota Community Foundation-commissioned report on the demographics and key indicators of infant and toddler well being in Minnesota; Meggan Gunnar, Ph.D., University of Minnesota Distinguished McKnight Professor in Child Development, international expert on the effect of stress on brain development, and member of the National Scientific Council of the Developing Child, Harvard University; Robert Anda, MD, MS, senior researcher, Center for Disease Control, and Co-Principal Investigator of the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE). The ACE is one of the largest scientific research studies of its kind, analyzing the relationships between multiple categories of childhood trauma and health and behavioral outcomes later in life; and J. Ronald Lally, Ed.D., Co-Director of the Center for Child and Family Studies at WestEd, an educational research and development laboratory.o. Dr. Lally directed the Syracuse University Family Development Research Program, a longitudinal study of the impact of early intervention on low income children and families.
I look forward to reporting back to you about the conference and ways we can improve early childhood in Minnesota.
This interactive graph breaks down the U.S. House health care proposal.
Posted on Thursday, September 24, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 9, 2009
Below is the text of the letter from Senator Edward M. Kennedy referenced in the President’s address to a Joint Session of Congress.
May 12, 2009
Dear Mr. President,
I wanted to write a few final words to you to express my gratitude for your repeated personal kindnesses to me – and one last time, to salute your leadership in giving our country back its future and its truth.
On a personal level, you and Michelle reached out to Vicki, to our family and me in so many different ways. You helped to make these difficult months a happy time in my life.
You also made it a time of hope for me and for our country.
When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the President who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. For me, this cause stretched across decades; it has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me-and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.
There will be struggles – there always have been – and they are already underway again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat - that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.
And so because of your vision and resolve, I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family’s health will never again depend on the amount of a family’s wealth. And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will – yes, we will – fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.
In closing, let me say again how proud I was to be part of your campaign- and proud as well to play a part in the early months of a new era of high purpose and achievement. I entered public life with a young President who inspired a generation and the world. It gives me great hope that as I leave, another young President inspires another generation and once more on America’s behalf inspires the entire world.
So, I wrote this to thank you one last time as a friend- and to stand with you one last time for change and the America we can become.
At the Denver Convention where you were nominated, I said the dream lives on.
And I finished this letter with unshakable faith that the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.
With deep respect and abiding affection,
Posted on Friday, September 11, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
Dear Mighty Citizens,
I want to thank all of you who attended our inspiring and thoughtful
Send Off for Health Care meeting this past Tuesday at Mt. Zion Temple.
For those of you who weren't able to attend, I want to provide you with
some of the information that was discussed.
The purpose of our Send Off for Health Care was to hear about from real
Minnesotans about their challenges with our broken health care system,
to discuss how federal health insurance reform can solve these problems,
and use our productive, fact-based dialogue to together advocate for the
kind of health insurance reform Minnesotans and Americans need.
Several people shared stories about how our broken health care system
isn't working. We heard from a man who is currently uninsured. Both he
and his wife work, but neither of their employers offers health
insurance and it is too expensive for him to purchase. A nurse told
several stories of patients she had worked with weren't able to afford
the preventative care they needed to maintain adequate health. And a man
discussed how the rapid increased cost of health care for his employees
crushed his small business.
A panel of health care experts including, Rep. Tom Huntley, Pastor
Grant Stevenson, Dr. Lynn Blewett, State Heath Access Data Assistance
Center, and Dr. Mick Belzer, Medical Director of HCMC, discussed these
problems and shared their perspective on why federal health insurance
reform must be passed now. Later, we also heard from U.S. Rep. Betty
McCollum and Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman about the need for health
The panel answered questions about health care reform that had been
filled out by those attending. There were so many good questions, that
we were unable to get to all of them. However, I will put out another
update soon that answers the questions that we were unable to get to at
Our productive meeting ended with a call to action. Everyone in
attendance was asked to send off a postcard to our congressional
delegation that showed their support for federal health insurance
reform. The post card read:
Dear Senator Klobuchar, Senator Franken, and Congresswoman McCollum,
Our nation is in crisis. Our health care system is broken. More than 47
million of our
fellow citizens don’t have health insurance; those who are fortunate
enough to have insurance are denied coverage for treatments because of
preexisting condition exclusions and other bureaucratic hurdles. The
cost of health coverage continues to grow at an unsustainable rate,
putting individuals, families, and small businesses in peril. The time
to act is now, and I am counting on you! Together I believe we can meet
this challenge. Please do all you can to ensure all Americans have
access to quality, affordable health care.
Thank you all so much for staying engaged in these important times for
our state and country. As always, call, e-mail, or write me with your
questions, concerns and input and I will get back to you.
Rep. Erin Murphy
Posted on Thursday, September 3, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
Wow! There is a gob of misinformation about the health care proposals in Washington. It is a challenge to cut through the mire of details, facts and proposals. Add the hyperbole intended to confuse and we have quite a task before us. I am confident that we can work through legitimate concerns. Affordable health care is the goal. Check out this site.
Posted on Wednesday, August 19, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
Health care reform on a local, state and federal level is vital. Across our district, our community and our state health care costs continue to rise and more individuals are lacking insurance. I ask that you be a part of health care reform. Sign up below to tell me your health care story - why are you interested in reform. You can chose to make your story private (between my office and your home) or public (the only information that will be shared if public will be your first name, city and your story). These stories will help us work on legislation that can truly make a difference for our state! Click HERE to share your story.
Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
Health Care Reform: Opportunities and Challenges for Minnesota
Testimony of Representative Erin Murphy
July 20, 2009
Good morning. My name is Erin Murphy. I am a registered nurse and a State Representative from district 64 A in St. Paul. Thank you for holding this hearing in Minnesota and for the invitation to testify today.
We must reform health care in America. In the middle of the debate, it may seem impossible to traverse the sharp policy and political questions before us but we must. The status quo is unsustainable and unacceptable. While individuals expect and often receive excellent care and cure, American lacks a coherent system of care delivery and payment. The result is a highly fragmented system delivering fragmented episodes of care.
Too little attention is paid to the ultimate goal of health.
Americans are paying a high price for underwhelming individual and population outcomes. We are in that rare moment of opportunity to change course. We must change course.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to share with you a perspective from Minnesota. As you well know, Minnesota is an innovator and has long the lead nation’s efforts in health policy, value and reform. Along with our upper Midwestern neighbors, we are a high value low cost state.
We must reform the nation’s health care delivery and payment systems to set the foundation for continued innovation and demonstration in Minnesota. We must embed what we know is working in Minnesota and the upper Midwest to deliver high value for lower relative cost across the Country. Finally, we must ensure that every American is covered so they get the right care at the right time for a good price.
For many years we have focused on coverage as a primary solution. That so many Americans lack coverage for needed care is wrong, plain and simple. That health care is so expensive that necessary treatment of disease is financially out of reach for so many is wrong, plain and simple. Relying on the emergency room as the primary point of care for the uninsured is wrong, plain and simple.
Getting everyone into coverage is imperative, morally and financially. An individual mandate and guaranteed issue of coverage, regardless of preexisting condition will yield more coverage with shared responsibility between individuals and insurers. A public option will give Americans a choice between private coverage and a publicly backed coverage that is portable.
A public option provides opportunity to further drive delivery and payment reforms. If the public option cements the status quo in terms of payment and delivery, it will compound the problems with which we are already struggling. But if the public option serves to propel reforms, it enhances efforts to deliver better care for a better price.
Minnesota has worked over two decades to assure coverage employing Medicaid, Minnesota Care and General Assistance Medical Care. The Governor’s line item veto of General Assistance Medical Care has undermined 20 years of effort in Minnesota. I ask that Congress consider this as it contemplates any state maintenance of effort. Maintenance of effort is an important means to balance state and federal efforts. Allowing state flexibility in policy reform while maintaining access provides state policymakers with the tools necessary for continued innovation.
Our fragmented delivery system is providing fragmented care and we are paying a high price. Care for those with chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease accounts for upwards of 60 percent of all Minnesota’s health care costs. This stark fact has served as a focal point in Minnesota. We must pursue policies to prevent the onset of disease and invested in care that will keep those with chronic conditions healthy and out of the hospital
Current payment is weighted to specialists and procedures and away from interventions to maintain health. For example, a surgeon is paid more for the amputation of a diseased diabetic limb than is a primary care provider for disease management preventing the loss of the limb.
Medicare sets the standard in payment. I urge the inclusion of large scale payment reform such as accountable care organizations or a total cost of care model Without similar, or even more aggressive payment reforms in Medicare, our health care system’s growth will be unsustainable. Medicare’s participation is essential in order to create a critical mass of payers in the new system.
Short of large scale change, I urge state flexibility in Medicare payment. A Minnesota or upper Midwest demonstration in payment will permit us to demonstrate the Congress and the nation the means to deliver high quality care for a better price.
Achieving significant health care reform in this country has for decades been a uniquely challenging and complex issue. The grind between dogged political frames has proved insurmountable for policy makers. Entwined state and federal policy and funding, limits state policy reform efforts and calls for federal action. The urgency of growing costs and shrinking access compels our action. 40 years ago, America put a man on the moon, a seemingly unachievable goal. We did that- and we will do this too. We must.
Thank you for your courage and hard work. I stand with you in your efforts to enact federal reform while promoting and protecting the value the care delivered in Minnesota.
Posted on Wednesday, July 22, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
Dear Mighty Citizens,
On Wednesday, July 1st, several new laws passed during the 2009 legislative session went into effect. I want to provide you with some of the highlights these new laws.
Please note, the Governor’s unallotment plans will cut $2.7 billion from the budget and will affect many of the budget laws passed by the Legislature. I have also provided some new information about the Governor’s unallotment and their prospective impact, which began on July 1st.
We learned at a recent Legislative Advisory Commission hearing, from non-partisan State Economist Tom Stinson, the Governor’s proposed unallotment will result in 3,000to 5,000 lost Minnesota jobs. Stinson also said the balanced budget passed by the Legislature and vetoed by the Governor would only have resulted in about 1,000 lost jobs.
It’s disappointing the Governor has pursued a go-it-alone unallotment strategy that will cost our state 3 to 5 times the amount of lost jobs as the balanced budget we sent him and he vetoed.
For more information on the new laws passed during the 2009 session, visit: http://www.house.mn/hinfo/NewLaws/NewLawsmain.asp.
For information on the Governor’s unallotment plans, visit: http://www.mmb.state.mn.us/doc/budget/unallotment/unallotment_2009.pdf.
Please contact me with your ideas, input and questions. Erin
New Laws Effective July 1, 2009
Focused on job retention and core services in an agricultural funding bill that reduced the departments base budget to help solve the budget deficit.
Strengthened protection for domestic assault victims with new laws. A prosecutor must now provide victims of domestic abuse and harassment with information on civil protection orders. The law also increases from 12 to 24 hours the time an officer may arrest a person whom the officer has probable cause to believe committed domestic abuse.
Energy and Environment
Modified successful electronic waste law to strengthen manufactures incentives for proper disposal of waste.
Increased transparency in environmental agencies and departments by requiring them to display their budgets on a Web site.
Directed about $400 million in Legacy funds to projects critical to environmental and cultural heritage. These funds come from the dedicated funding constitutional amendment passed by the voters last election.
Passed new law to direct the Minnesota Gambling Control Board to conduct a 12 month review of licensed charitable gambling organizations in order to provide transparency where gambling funds are directed.
Boosted accountability and reduced spending in state government budget bill, including a cut to the State Legislature. State Government received largest percentage cut of any budget area this session.
*Governor’s unallotments will affect state government laws passed by the Legislature. See section on unallotment for more details.
Made changes to meet federal Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act that will result in additional $20 million in federal dollars cover kids. New law is expected to provide health care to 20,000 previously uninsured Minnesota children.
Cut health care and human services spending by about $500 million, but preserved funding for nursing homes, health care access, and minimized job losses at hospitals and clinics.
*Governor’s line-item veto of General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) and unallotments will affect health care laws passed by the Legislature. See section on unallotment for more details.
Capped tuition increases at University of Minnesota at $300 per year and at 3% for MnSCU campuses.
Passed several provisions in higher education funding bill to make college more affordable, such as expanding state grant program, work study, and child care assistance grants and creating middle income scholarship.
*Governor’s unallotments will impact higher education laws passed by the Legislature. See section on unallotment for more details.
Jobs and Economic Development
Passed jobs and economic development budget bill that reduces funding to help solve the budget deficit, while preserving programs critical to getting unemployed Minnesotans back to work.
Protected K-12 schools from cuts with education funding bill that held base funding flat.
Reduced unfunded state mandates to schools with new laws to provide funding flexibility in these tough times.
*Governor’s unallotment plans will impact education laws passed by the State Legislature. See section on unallotment for more details.
Passed “Brandon’s Law” which expands state’s missing children law to include adults who go missing under dangerous circumstances. The law is named after Brandon Swanson, who went missing after his car was stuck in a ditch in Southwest Minnesota.
New law requires child restraint for young riders. Youth in motor vehicles must be in child passenger restraint system until their eight birthday or until they reach 4 foot 9 inches tall.
Preserved veterans’ services from budget cuts with passage of targeted budget bill.
We learned more about the Governor’s unallotment plans this week at our second Legislative Advisory Commission meeting. Perhaps most important, we learned the Governor’s unallotment will result in 3,000 to 5,000 job losses. The areas that will be most affected by job losses are private sector health care related jobs, K-12 education jobs, and local and state government-related jobs such as police and fire. Non-partisan State Economist Tom Stinson said the balanced budget passed by the Legislature would have resulted in 1,000 lost jobs. In other words, the Governor’s unallotment will result in 3 to 5 times the amount of lost jobs as passed by the Legislature.
Here are further details on the impact of the Governor’s unallotment plans and information we learned at the Legislative Advisory Commission hearing.
$1.7 billion shift or delayed payment to K-12 schools. Schools may have to borrow money in the short term, increase levies, cut their budgets, or some combination of the three. State Economist Tom Stinson estimates 300 to 600 lost jobs.
$100 million cut from the University of Minnesota and the MnSCU system on top of the $60 million in cuts that were signed into law this session. Tuition is likely to increase and over 1,000 jobs are likely to be lost.
$300 million cut from local government aid to cities and counties, which will increase property taxes significantly and result in over 1,000 lost jobs. St. Paul will be cut about $16 million and Ramsey County will be cut about $10 million. The Governor also cut $50 million from the renters’ credit program, which will result in an average tax increase of $129 to $441 for 304,900 Minnesota renters. The average tax increase for the 84,700 seniors and disabled Minnesotans who use the renters’ credit will be $144.
Health Care, Hospitals, Services for the Disabled
$236 million was cut to various health care programs, most of which serve seniors, the disabled, and mentally ill. According to State Economist Tom Stinson, these cuts will result in over 500 private sector job losses. We also learned the state of Minnesota will lose $72 million in federal matching dollars as a result of these cuts.
$33 million in across the board cuts to state agency operating budgets with exemptions for public safety, military and veterans affairs, corrections, and State Operated Services within the Department of Human Services
Posted on Monday, July 6, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
Today in the proposed unilateral unallotment proposal, General Assistance Medical Care was cut again, moving the elimination of the program from July 1, 2010 to March of 2010. The Administration is making one more cut to to the poorest Minnesotans and Minnesota hospitals. This cut is a cost shift to those who pay health insurance premiums and property taxes. It undermines the health care of Minnesotans on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder.
I hope that you will join me for this event. Minnesota people of faith are gathering for a witness of lament on Tuesday June 30 at 10:45 AM at the State Capitol to urge Gov. Tim Pawlenty not to abandon the health of Minnesota’s citizens, especially those most in need. More details to follow.
Posted on Tuesday, June 16, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
It has been nearly a month since the conclusion of the 2009 session. I have spent the past few weeks listening to the many different reactions to the session. With humility, I want to share with you my perspective on the session, the balanced budget we presented to the Governor, and the importance of the work ahead to shape a positive future for Minnesota
Throughout the winter and spring, and as the magnitude of the global recession became apparent, I worked with my colleagues to address the state's budget deficit. Just as families across Minnesota are adjusting to address our new economic reality, the State must do the same. But I believe that deep cuts will actually slow our economic recovery versus a targeted tax increase paired with cuts. From the beginning, I argued for a balanced budget approach employing smart cuts, limited ongoing revenue, and protection of core services.
The House produced a balanced budget with deep, but strategic, cuts and limited ongoing revenue in the form of targeted tax increases. We listened carefully to advocates and citizens to understand how to make those cuts responsibly. It was a budget focused not only on cuts, but reforms -- including eliminating public spending on tax preferences that benefited only some Minnesotans; reforming dental services, personal care assistance and public health care programs; and making more than $500 million in cuts to hospitals, nursing facilities and providers while protecting access to care the most vulnerable among us. In total, the Legislature cut $1.6 billion -- $100 million more than the Governor proposed.
To prevent catastrophic cuts to basic services, both the Legislature and the Governor proposed new revenue. But our proposals were starkly different. The Governor proposed borrowing $1 billion against future state revenues, forcing Minnesotans to pay the $600 to $800 million in interest on the debt over the next 20 years. The House rejected this proposal in a bi-partisan and nearly unanimous vote of 131-2.
The Legislature passed two bills that included ongoing revenue. The first raised $1.5billion; the second, in an effort to compromise with the Governor, raised just under $1 billion - the same amount as his borrowing proposal. Instead of borrowing, our plan was mostly comprised of a small income tax increase on those earning over $250,000 per year -- a joint filer earning $300,000 per year would have paid $109 more per year in taxes.
The session ended without a budget agreement, largely because of the fundamental difference between the two plans to raise revenue. Do we borrow to pay for ongoing operations, or use taxes to pay for ongoing operations? It is an important strategic question for Minnesota as we struggle through this recession.
The Governor signed our budget bills, but vetoed the revenue bills that paid for them, putting the budget out of balance and effectively ending the session without a balanced budget. We worked to override the veto of the compromise tax bill, but the attempt failed on a party line vote.
The Governor will now use "unallotment" to unilaterally close the budget by himself, making additional cuts on top of the substantial cuts the Legislature already passed into law. These cuts will have a significant impact on the lives of many Minnesotans and be most harmful in the areas of education and health care – the top priorities the Legislature worked to protect. The Governor's cuts will likely cause the loss of over 10,000 jobs at Minnesota schools and hospitals, increase tuition at colleges and universities, and spark significant property tax increases.
The Governor began his go-it-alone budget cut strategy with his line-item veto of the General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC). Minnesotans served by GAMC earn less than $8,000 annually and more than 70% of them have a chronic health condition. According to the Commissioner of Human Services, these are “the poorest of the poor, the sickest of the sick.” The Governor's veto of this program kicks 30,000 vulnerable Minnesotans off of health care.
The Governor argues that health care costs are growing at an unsustainable rate, and I share that view. Last session, we worked with the administration to adopt legislation to slow growth in health care costs, and our efforts are now a national model. That work is progressing and will, over time, produce both a healthier population and cost savings.
Unfortunately, his veto of GAMC will hinder that progress. Minnesotans getting basic health care through GAMC today will continue to seek and receive care at Minnesota hospitals, but now the costs will be shifted to those of us currently paying for health care; premium payers, property tax payers, employers and employees. The line item veto puts tremendous financial pressure on hospitals already stressed by the weak economy and does nothing to solve the underlying cost problem. It simply shifts the cost - in effect, a tax increase.
In a defining moment of the session, every House Republican stood with the Governor to kick 30,000 Minnesotans off of health care, voting to reject the House's override of the Governor's financially irresponsible and morally reprehensible veto. Just hours later, they stood with Governor again, upholding his veto of our revenue bill that protected hospitals, schools and nursing homes with an income tax increase on the wealthiest Minnesotans. (Here is a link to floor debate on the evening we sought the override of the GAMC line-item veto (http://tinyurl.com/knjqy9)).
The Legislature made many compromises with both the Governor and Republicans in the House and Senate. The Governor wouldn’t come to the table, refusing to agree to anything other than borrowing or deeper cuts. While I strongly favored reaching an agreement, I could not agree to the cuts proposed in the Administration's budget - the cuts were too deep and too fiscally irresponsible.
I strongly disagree with the Governor's planned unallotment to balance the budget unilaterally. This action is rash and erodes the fundamental balance of power between the legislative and executive branches. That said, now the Governor must act, and longer he waits, the more unpredictable Minnesota's future becomes, further destabilizing our economic recovery.
I am already working with my colleagues preparing for next session, continuing our focus on reform. I have met with the folks at Regions Hospital, the St. Paul Chamber, Ramsey County, as well as Mayor Coleman and many constituents. I have met with the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health as we work to understand and shape national health reform efforts.
Let me be clear - unallotment does not solve our budget woes by any means. We will likely face another budget deficit next year, and my focus will continue to be on reform, so that we may protect core services while providing the best value to our constituents. We will continue on a path to a sustainable budget and economic recovery. I remain committed to an honest and results oriented debate about our fiscal health and our commitment to opportunity for every Minnesotan.
I am grateful to you for your advice and your best thoughts. As always, I appreciate your candor and your willingness to both challenge my thinking and consider other perspectives. I look forward to our continued conversation.
After announcing Thursday he plans to make billions of dollars in budget cuts alone without public or legislative input, Governor Tim Pawlenty eliminated General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) in Minnesota. With one line item veto late Thursday night, the governor cut $381 million that was dedicated exclusively to treat the poorest people in the state - including veterans, senior citizens, and the mentally ill.
Those cuts may result in the full or partial closure of Regions Hospital in St. Paul. By eliminating GAMC, the hospital will face a $46 million budget cut - 10% of its gross revenue. Regions Hospital employs roughly 5,000 people and serves nearly 23,000 patients every year.
The following is a statement from local state lawmakers deeply concerned about these devastating cuts to Regions Hospital and the potential impact on residents of St. Paul and the surrounding suburbs:
"Governor Pawlenty’s veto pen single-handedly put Regions Hospital in St. Paul at serious risk of significantly cutting back critical services or potentially closing its doors. This is a devastating blow to tens of thousands of citizens in St. Paul and the surrounding communities who rely on Regions Hospital for quality, expert medical care. It has threatened thousands of jobs, and the health and safety of our communities.
This deep and devastating cut could have been avoided. Lawmakers offered a responsible alternative that would have cut Regions Hospital only $5.7 million - a budget reduction the hospital could have sustained without significantly drawing back critical medical services to our community.
By eliminating GAMC, Governor Pawlenty has cut 30,000 of Minnesota’s poorest, sickest citizens off health care. Many are veterans, senior citizens, people with mentally illness, or those who are homeless. 70% have expensive mental health or chemical dependency challenges, and 40% have chronic disease that leads to frequent hospitalization. Without care, these Minnesotans will be at risk of devastating health implications.
Finally, these cuts have made the state’s budget shortfall even worse. Eliminating GAMC in Minnesota costs the state $100 million in federal matching funds. It also requires that inmates in county jails and sex offenders who are constitutionally required access to medical care must now be paid for in general fund dollars.
We are deeply disappointed in Governor Pawlenty’s decision to balance the budget with jobs and deep cuts to hospitals. In the final days of session, we’ll keep fighting to protect jobs and keep Minnesota’s hospitals whole."
Posted on Saturday, May 16, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
We are at the home stretch in the 2009 legislative session.
By Wednesday of this week, the Legislature finalized and sent to the Governor the budget bills that make surgical spending cuts and raise reasonable revenue in order to prevent deep and painful cuts to health care, hospitals and nursing homes. Unfortunately, he has decided to balance the budget behind closed doors through a line-item vetoes and a process called unallotment. The Governor has not made public what he plans to cut in the hearings held since his press announcement. Using his budget proposal as a guide, it’s likely he would make very deep cuts to health care and local government aid, causing property taxes to rise again.
On Thursday night, the Governor began making painful cuts to health care through a $380 million line-item veto of General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC), eliminating health care coverage for over 30,000 of Minnesotans earning $8,000 a year or less. In testimony yesterday, DHS Commissioner Ludeman describes those served in GAMC as chronically mentally and/or physically ill, homeless and poor. The veto will result in the loss of approximately $46 million from Regions Hospital in St. Paul, which will cause job losses and severe cuts in services.
I appreciate your feedback when I make contact with you. Many of you have asked me to work to raise revenue and many have expressed concern that in this weak economy, new taxes will be an unbearable burden. Since the start of session I have argued for a balanced solution to stabilize the state's budget. Too much revenue from Minnesotans will slow recovery just as will cuts too deep to manage. CEO's from Region's, Bethesda, St. Paul Children's, all large employers, have been clear about their inability to absorb the cuts resulting from the Governor’s veto. I have worked all session to strike the balance between cuts and revenue. The plan to veto and unallot will hurt St. Paul with more job loss, higher health care costs and higher property taxes.
With a $6.4 billion budget deficit, we know there is a lot at stake in our budget solution. Please take some time to listen to what a few Minnesotans have to say about budget cuts to hospitals, schools and nursing homes at the following links:
Minnesotans Speak – Health Care on the Chopping Block
Minnesotans Speak – Please don’t close Minnesota hospitals http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCa8DmK6c-U&feature=related
Minnesotans Speak – Disabled and mentally ill face deep cuts
Minnesotans Speak – Governor’s cuts hurt our schools and students
The Legislature must adjourn on Monday, May 18th at midnight. Until then, I encourage you to come to the Capitol to voice your concerns. If you can’t make it to the Capitol, you can call the Governor at 651-296-3391 and ask him to raise reasonable revenue to prevent devastating cuts to our hospitals, schools and nursing homes.
The past month has been very intense- a theme of the session this year. Lots has happened since my April post. We have worked most every day since our early April break- making great progress. We have assembled and passed the omnibus budget bills off the floor and to conference committee. A number of the committees have wrapped up their bills and sent bills to the Governor.
The House website is full of information on the budget bills, their progress and side by side budget comparisons. Go to to learn more.
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve-- though a little weary tonight!
Posted on Friday, May 8, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
The Legislature took an important step today to solve our budget
shortfall and I would like to share with you our plan to raise
responsible revenue in order to prevent the closure of hospitals,
nursing homes and deep cuts to our schools.
Throughout the legislative session, we have been debating how best to
solve our $6.4 billion shortfall. The Governor and Legislature have
agreed both cuts and new revenue is needed to solve our shortfall in
order to prevent dramatic and deep cuts. Without new revenue, over $1
billion will be cut from hospitals and nursing homes and $600 million
from our schools. In total, these cuts would cause the loss of over
20,000 Minnesota jobs and the closure of many hospitals and nursing
In our area, that will mean about $50 million will be cut from Regions
Hospital in St. Paul and about $34 million would be cut from the St.
Paul school district.
The Governor has proposed about $1.5 billion in cuts and the House has
proposed $1.6 billion - $100 million more in cuts than the Governor.
The Governor has proposed a revenue plan that raises $1 billion through
borrowing which would be paid back over the next 20 years with $600
million in interest. This revenue plan does not appear to be an option
because it was voted down bipartisanly by the Legislature on a vote of
131 to 2.
To strike a balance, the Legislature offered a plan today that raises
the same amount of revenue the Governor is proposing, but does so
without asking our children to pay for it. Minnesota’s highest earners
would pay a slightly higher income tax rate, tax on alcoholic beverages
would increase by a few cents– the first increase in 22 years, and
credit card companies that charge customers more than 15 percent in
interest will be asked to pay a surcharge. The revenue raised will go
directly towards preventing catastrophic cuts to schools, hospitals and
nursing homes and nothing else - and the income tax provisions will
sunset once our economy recovers.
While it’s never easy voting for any tax increases, the alternative
would be closing hospitals, nursing homes and dramatically cutting our
schools. In my opinion, we must take the difficult but responsible
action to cut spending and raise reasonable revenue in order to prevent
catastrophic cuts to our most important Minnesota values. It’s the
best way to pull Minnesota through this budget crisis without
jeopardizing the future health of our state.
If the Governor disagrees and will not support any new revenue, our
schools, hospitals and nursing homes will be faced with the dramatic
cuts I have listed above. I encourage you to share your thoughts with me
about our plan to raise revenue to preserve our schools, hospitals and
nursing homes and to contact the Governor as well. You can call the
Governor at 651-296-3391.
We are midway through the Legislative session and we are focusing our attention on solving our record budget deficit and positioning Minnesota for economic recovery. It is clear the two cannot be separated. We have released our budget framework in the Minnesota House DFL caucus. It requires sacrifice including significant cuts and new revenue. It demands reform and we are considering innovations across the budget. Most importantly, the House budget is a fair, honest and practical approach to solve the deficit and position Minnesota for economic prosperity.
In this recession, it is more important than ever to invest in areas of our budget that can help grow our economy in the short and long term. Our plan maintains our commitment to early, K-12 and higher education - our very best investment to create long term economic prosperity. We also prioritized areas of the budget critical to protection and creation of jobs.
As the House developed our budget targets, our caucus took a careful look at what a “cuts only” strategy would look like for Minnesota. It isn’t pretty. Even with full use of federal recovery dollars, a “cuts alone” approach would require deep spending reductions in every area of government.
If we cut all education categories 4 to 5 percent (over $1 billion in cuts) all other sections of the budget - environmental and natural resources, health and human services, local government aid - would all face cuts in the range of 20 percent or more. Under these cuts, over 12,000 school employees across the state could lose their jobs, tuition at the U of M and MnSCU would rise significantly, 10 percent of all hospitals and 33 percent of nursing homes would close, 3 prisons would need to close, and property taxes would increase by as much as a billion dollars to offset part of the cuts to local governments.
We cannot cut our way out this budget deficit. This fact is acknowledged in both the House and Governor’s budget proposals, each which employs new revenue to close the deficit. However each proposal takes a different approach on the question of revenue.
The Governor’s proposal would raise $1 billion through a borrowing plan that would take out a 20-year loan for state operations. Akin to maxing out a VISA to pay off a Mastercard, this approach asks our future generations to pay for our current deficit until 2030 and beyond at an eventual cost of $1.6 billion. The Governor proposes a $1billion in delayed education payments. The Governor’s plan also assumes over $600 million in property tax increases through his deep cuts to local government aid.
The House proposal includes $1.5 billion in budget cuts and raises $1.5 billion of revenue. The revenue will likely include a combination of tax code reforms and tax increases, yielding a progressive revenue proposal. The 2009 Minnesota Tax Incidence Report demonstrates that Minnesota's tax code has grown more regressive. We propose that the financially strongest among us share in the solution, making the tax code more progressive. The House proposal includes a delay in school payments and we will produce a budget to balance in both the 10-11 and 12-13 biennium. This is no small feat.
In the middle of the great recession, we must advance practical and achievable solutions. We must consider the economic impact of cuts and tax increases and strike the right balance as too much of either intervention could further weaken the economy. I hope we can pass a budget that reflects Minnesota's values - protection of the vulnerable, investment in education, self sufficiency and jobs and hope for a brighter future.
Posted on Friday, April 10, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
Minnesota is one of a handful of states to produce a biennial tax incidence study. Instituted two decades ago by then Tax Chair Rep. Paul Ogren, the report provides ongoing information about who in Minnesota is paying taxes.
Find and review this year's report at the Minnesota Department of Revenue under "Research Reports" and you will see that Minnesota's tax code is growing more regressive- and thus less fair.
Posted on Sunday, March 22, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
For those following the legislature from home, I thought it might be helpful to share what we will be doing in the week ahead. The legislature calendar is predictable, guided by deadlines and rules. The deadlines help us to focus and narrow our work.
This Friday is the first policy deadline. A bill needs to be heard in the relevant policy committees in either the House or Senate by this Friday. If a bill has not met the deadline, it will not progress this session.
Because of the deadline, policy committees are meeting for extended hours this week and last.
We are now hearing bills that will serve as the foundation for the House budget proposal. Check out the House website at www.house.mn to see the schedule for the day. And check back here for a weekly post about the week ahead.
Posted on by Erin Murphy, under A New Blog Feature.
On Tuesday March 3rd, the February forecast was released. Rather than spin the numbers, I invite you to review the forecast at www.mmb.state.mn.us/doc.fu/09/complete-feb09.pdf
The forecast captures what Minnesotans are experiencing and I suspect that you will not be surprised by what you read. As you already know, we are facing a fierce challenge- one that requires an extraordinary response which begins with a clear understanding the problem we are facing.
Town Hall Meetings
I am inspired by the more than seven thousand Minnesotans who attended one of Town Hall meetings held across the state in the past couple of weeks. Members of the House and Senate, republicans and democrats together attended the meetings.
Minnesotans shared a litany of perspectives and concerns about the budget and cuts. Across the state, Minnesotans asked us to be fair as we balance the budget. They asked that we not target one part of the budget over others. There was a predictably wide divide between those opposed to new taxes and those asking for new revenue solve some of the deficit.
Thanks to everyone who attended, testified or sent testimony to me. Thanks also to the excellent work by the House and Senate staff who organized all of the logistics.
The Work Ahead
With the forecast complete, committees will begin to process the bills that will serve as the foundation for the House budget proposal. On Friday we recieved the 380 page bill which represents the Governor's 'Version One' (pre-federal stimulus) budget proposal for Health and Human Services. Though we have had proposed budget pages, we cannot begin to act on proposals till they are in bill form, ready for hearing.
Posted on Sunday, March 8, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
Dear Mighty Citizens,
The 2009 session is moving quickly and the work is intense. Over the next several weeks, we will better understand the content of Federal Economic Recovery Act and how it influences our work in Minnesota. I am hopeful that the federal funds will help us retain and create jobs, strengthen Minnesota’s infrastructure and extend unemployment and health benefits for those losing their jobs.
The Legislature has received the Governor’s budget proposal and we are carefully reviewing it. We will consider it along with federal funds and the upcoming forecast, due March 3rd. Between now and the start of March, legislators will take the budget on the road so that Minnesotans across the state have a chance to weigh in. Armed with your input, and ideas, we will then work to put together a state budget that reflects the values and priorities of Minnesotans.
Coffee House Conversations
February 18, 2009 6:30 PM
Home of the Farrell’s
552 Summit Ave
February 25, 2009 7:00 PM
Home of the Megan’s
District 64A Legislative Open House
Saturday February 28, 9:30 am – 11:00 am
Dayton Campus Center, John B Davis Lecture Hall
1550 Summit Ave, St Paul MN 55105
DFL Town Hall Forum on State Budget
Thursday, February 26, 6:00 pm
West Minnehaha Recreation Center
685 Minnehaha Ave W, St. Paul
SD 64 Capitol Luncheon
Tuesday, March 10, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm
Room 118 of the State Capitol
Posted on Tuesday, February 17, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
We are embarking on bicameral, bipartisan, fiscally responsible citizen hearings. It is important for Minnesotans to share their perspectives on the budget and priorities for Minnesota’s future. Rather than full committees traveling the state, we will be sending smaller groups to specific areas. We will travel together to minimize fuel costs (and emissions). There will be no overnight stays.
I hope that you will attend a hearing and share your point of view and your best ideas. Here is the schedule thus far. If there are changes, I will post them.
As always, thanks for the opportunity to serve.
Thursday, February 19th
Mankato Intergovernmental Center- Mankato River Room 10 Civic Center Plaza
Rochester Community and Technical College- Heintz Center Commons Area 1926 Collegeview Road SE
St Cloud 6:00PM
St. Cloud City Hall- Council Chambers 400-2nd Street South
Kennedy Elementary School 824-7th Street SW
Friday, February 20th
Albert Lea 10:00AM
Albert Lea City Hall Council Chambers 221 E Clark Street
Winona City Hall- Council Chambers 207 Lafayette
Southwest Minnesota State University Lecture Hall 1501 State Street
Worthington City Hall Council Chambers 303 Ninth Street
Little Falls 9:30AM
Morrison County Government Center-Garden Level Meeting Room 213 -1st Avenue SE
Alexandria City Hall 704 Broadway
Duluth City Hall-Council Chambers 411 W 1st Street
Mesabi Range Community and Technical College-Small Auditorium 1001 Chestnut Street W, Virginia
Washington Educational Services Building-Board Room 804 Oak Street
Bemidji State University-American Indian Resource Center Gathering Place 1620 Birchmont Drive
Senate Tax Committee
Minnesota State University Moorhead-Comstock Union 1104 – 7th Avenue South
Monday, February 23
Woodbury 6:00 p.m.
Central Park Amphitheater, 8595 Central Park Place
Tuesday, February 24
Bloomington 7:00 p.mm
Bloomington City Hall, 1800 W Old Shakopee Rd
Minneapolis 6:00 p.m.
Minneapolis Park Board, 2117 West River Road
Wednesday, February 25
Burnsville 7:30 p.m.
Fairview Ridges Hospital, 201 E. Nicollet Blvd
White Bear Lake 6:30 p.m.
White Bear Lake High School - South Campus, 3551 McKnight Rd N
Thursday, February 26
St. Paul 6:00 p.m.
West Minnehaha Rec. Center in Frogtown, 685 Minnehaha Ave W
Plymouth 7:00 p.m.
Plymouth City Hall, 3400 Plymouth Blvd.
Coon Rapids 7:00 p.m.
Coon Rapids City Hall, 11155 Robinson Drive
Time and Location Pending
Posted on Saturday, February 7, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
Over the next month or so, legislative committees will review the Governor’s budget proposal. We will review the proposal in district at citizen meetings. Joint Committees will hold town hall style meetings across Minnesota. Given the challenge we are facing, it is important that Minnesotans have a good measure of what is being proposed and what it means for our families, neighbors, businesses and the economy. You can learn more about the proposal by going to www.mmb.state.mn.us.
I am carefully reviewing the budget. It is easy to rush to judgment and there are certainly proposals that are of great concern, from my point of view. But it is important to take a full measure of the proposal. I hope that you will share your reactions with me. To those who are already making contact, I thank you.
Finally, as the Obama Administration and Congress debate and finalize the federal recovery legislation, I will share details with you. Last fall I worked to organize and hold an initial meeting of Minnesota’s State and Federal Health Care Caucus. We met at the end of the year to discuss health care funding and reform measures. That early work will help us to work effectively with our federal partners to shape the recovery initiative.
You know how to reach me. Thank you for your advice and hard work.
Posted on Wednesday, January 28, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
In 2007, the Legislature commissioned a study on Minnesota’s budget trends. Since the start of this decade, Minnesota’s budget has been on a bit of a roller coaster. Under the guidance and leadership of Rep. Ann Lenczewski and Sen. Dick Cohen, Minnesota sought an explanation for this.
A panel of 15, appointed by the House, Senate and Governor, produced a set of findings and recommendations for action. The Budget Trends Study Commission Report was released yesterday and you can read it here http://www.mmb.state.mn.us/doc/budget/trends/report-09.pdf.
Commission Co-Chairs former Commissioners Jay Kiedrowski and Kevin Goodno presented the report to joint hearing of the House Tax and Finance Committees. The findings and recommendations are sobering. They also provide guidance for our shared future. I hope you have a chance to read the summary. And I hope you will share your reactions and feedback with me. You can reach me at email@example.com.
Posted on Tuesday, January 13, 2009 by Erin Murphy,
On January 6, 2009 at noon, the members of the Minnesota House of Representatives took the oath of office and we organized ourselves for the 2009 Legislative Session. I joined Secretary of State Mark Ritche at the desk where I served as Clerk Pro Tem. That means I called the roll, established the quorum, called the vote for Speaker (Margaret Anderson Kelliher) and called the vote for Chief Clerk (Mathowitz). It is a feat of concentration and I am grateful to the Chief Clerk for his skillful execution of House floor sessions.
Committee assignments and the schedule are set. I will serve on the following committees:
• Health and Human Services Policy and Oversight
• Health and Human Services Finance
I have a new Legislative Assistant and his name is Will Hailer. He comes to the House with a lot of previous administrative experience and he is doing an excellent job. Please greet him when you visit. My office remains in the same spot, 413 SOB. I hope you will visit, write, call or email to share your perspectives and ideas regarding the work ahead.
We have a big job ahead as we balance the budget. I know that there is plenty of coverage of the budget in the news. On January 27, the Governor will release his budget. I am planning meetings within the district to share details of the current forecast and the Governor’s budget proposal. I think it is important for us to have a shared understanding of Minnesota’s revenue outlook and the impact of the recession and job loss as well as the Governor’s proposed solutions.
At the end of February we will get the next forecast and with that, the legislature will begin to assemble the budget in earnest. You can share your budget balancing ideas through a link on the House webpage: www.house.leg.state.mn.us. I have faith in our capacity to bring Minnesota and all of us through this recession, well positioned for the recovery. That is the work ahead.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve and the honor to represent the mighty 64A in the State House.
Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2009 by Erin Murphy,