May 20th marked the closing of the 2018 Legislative Session, which was capped off with Governor Mark Dayton vetoing the Supplemental Budget Omnibus Bill (Senate File 3656) just three days later. This veto means that important changes to support affordable child care will not become law; however, it also means that harmful provisions to add more barriers to affordable health care, child care, and food assistance will also remain on the cutting room floor.
Policymakers set the state’s two-year budget in 2017. This year, lawmakers had the ability to adjust that budget and determine what to do with a modest surplus. Ultimately, the Legislature passed a wide-ranging budget and policy package that spanned more than 980 pages, and addressed issues from traffic violations to health care requirements.
Positive provisions in the Supplemental Budget Omnibus Bill included important family-friendly changes to Minnesota’s Child Care Assistance Program. These changes would have been paid for by new federal funding, and supported families experiencing homelessness; allowed families to retain their child care assistance as they made the transition off Minnesota’s welfare-to-work program; helped families who move between counties keep their child care assistance; and increased the reimbursement rate child care providers receive for their important services.
The bill also included provisions that addressed a pending 7 percent rate cut for some providers who care for people with disabilities; some investments to address the opioid crisis; an increase in chemical dependency provider rates intended to expand access to substance abuse treatment; and some language seeking to address abuse against vulnerable adults living in long-term care settings.
However, the bill also contained language that would have added unnecessary barriers to health care, child care, and food assistance. This bill would have required the Department of Human Services to hire a third-party vendor to double-check the eligibility of Minnesotans who have already been determined to be eligible by the state. People seeking these basic supports often experience unstable housing, juggle multiple jobs, or have unreliable transportation — all things that make it harder for vendors to get in touch with them to confirm, for the second time, that they are eligible for these essential supports.
The bill failed to repeal the sunset of the provider tax, putting health care for about 89,000 Minnesotans at risk because the state will lose more than $900 million in the FY 2020-21 biennium. The provider tax amounts to more than half of the Health Care Access Fund’s revenue, which supports affordable health care.
The governor cited both process and policy objections to the Supplemental Budget Omnibus Bill in his veto letter. According to the Dayton, these objections, including the failure to meaningfully address the abuse of vulnerable adults and the opioid epidemic, outweighed the bill’s positive provisions on issues such as school safety and child care.
Another positive outcome of the session is that the state did not enact new documentation requirements that likely would have resulted in taking health care away from over 20,000 Minnesotans. At the beginning of session, the House and Senate quickly moved proposals to require people who use Medical Assistance, Minnesota’s version of Medicaid, to submit paperwork showing how much they work, or documentation from a doctor on why they can’t work, in order to continue to receive health care. Sorting through the piles of paperwork that would have been required by this proposal was estimated to cost Minnesota counties more than $160 million every year once fully implemented.
Policymakers will have a second bite at the apple on these issues. The 2019 Legislative Session will be focused on setting the next two-year budget. Be on the lookout for continuing conversations to either create new barriers aimed at limiting essential supports, or to invest in strategies that expand Minnesota’s economic opportunities.