Rep. Debra Hilstrom (40B) – Legislative Update
The first month of the 2017 legislative session is already behind us. I’d like to give an update on some of the work we have done to this point, and some of the discussions soon taking center stage in the House of Representatives.
Health Insurance Premiums
Much of the attention early on during the session been focused on how to best address soaring premiums for 125,000 Minnesotans who purchase health insurance on the individual market. The Legislature recently passed and Gov. Dayton signed a bill providing a 25 percent rebate on these premiums. It’s disappointing that this took so long to reach bipartisan compromise on this topic, and to be sure, there are some concerning provisions in the bill.
After the relief bill was signed, the open enrollment period to purchase health insurance for 2017 was extended to today. If you’ve been waiting to apply for coverage or to find out if you’re eligible for a rebate, I encourage you to visit MNsure’s website, and don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance.
Governor Dayton’s Budget
Gov. Mark Dayton has announced his two-year state budget proposal and we have had a series of hearings in the Ways and Means Committee with the chance to hear details and ask questions about the plan. Overall, his budget will provide opportunities to all Minnesotans.
His budget contains a significant, but necessary increase in education funding with an additional two percent on the per-pupil formula each of the next two years, as well as a $75 million additional investment in voluntary pre-K. Much of our state’s economic success stems from having world-class schools, and it’s important we don’t fall behind, and that we can expand opportunities for all children to achieve.
In the area of Public Safety, the budget includes solutions to keep our communities safe. These include increased investments in law enforcement training, security improvements at our correction facilities, and resources to help offenders successfully re-enter the community following incarceration.
As we look toward stabilizing our health insurance market, Gov. Dayton proposed a “public option” to increase competition and drive down costs. Finally, Gov. Dayton called upon the legislature to work with him to craft an overdue solution to the $6 billion funding shortfall we have in our transportation budget over the next 10 years.
Gov. Dayton’s shows a commitment to fair, responsible budgeting. While we currently have a $1.4 billion budget surplus, certain economic indicators and uncertainty at the federal level give us some reason for pause. In doing this work, I look forward to creating opportunities for Minnesotans and their families.
Last week I had the opportunity to appear on Your Legislators, a statewide public television program featuring a discussion about current events at the Legislature. One member from each of the four legislative caucuses make up the panel, and many thoughtful questions from viewers were submitted. You can watch the show at Pioneer Public TV’s website here.
Throughout the session, I hope you will stay in touch with me and share any feedback you may have about issues discussed at the Legislature. Feel free to email me or call me at the Capitol anytime.