Column: Sustaining the veto was right callRecently, Senator Murphy and I took part in a League of Women Voters forum in Red Wing.
By: Tim Kelly, Red Wing, The Republican Eagle
Recently, Senator Murphy and I took part in a League of Women Voters forum in Red Wing. The main topic of conversation was the future of General Assistance Medical Care, which provides free health care to low-income Minnesotans.
The Legislature previously passed a new alternative to GAMC, a program that was growing at the unsustainable level of 30 percent every biennium.
Most Republicans who supported this fix — myself included — did so thinking more reforms would be added to a final compromise proposal that would ultimately take place in a joint House/Senate conference committee.
But when the Senate approved the bill without amendments, a conference committee was not needed. Governor Pawlenty, citing the need for more reform and responsible spending, vetoed the plan.
The LWV forum took place just days before a veto override vote was scheduled in the Minnesota House. I was told to just override the veto and to stand up for our poorest Minnesotans.
I told the audience I would uphold the veto because there was more compromise to be had and that a real fix was in play. Most of the attendees weren’t too pleased with my answer.
Neither, apparently, was the House Democrat majority leader.
During the debate on the veto override, he told lawmakers it was now or never on the GAMC fix. He told us there were only two choices, a vote for the override or a vote to basically kick our poorest Minnesotans to the curb for good.
Despite the threat, the governor’s veto was sustained.
Lo and behold, just four days later, a deal between Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate, along with the Governor’s Office, was announced.
Specifically, Democrat Erin Murphy and Republican Matt Dean are to be thanked for fixing this problem on bipartisan terms — and ignoring the incessant partisan rhetoric associated with this issue.
What does the new compromise accomplish that the previous bill did not?
First, it saves the taxpayers $714 million.
Second, it prevents $19 million in cuts to county mental health, child protection, and case management that the majority party had included.
And most importantly, it gives Minnesota’s poorest of the poor the help they need.
I appreciate the opposition, but I was astounded that some residents and lawmakers claimed I was not compassionate to the needs of the poor unless I supported an override.
During the debate, lawmakers cited Bible verses and questioned the morals of those who supported the governor’s position.
Everyone had the same goal, but in this instance, Republicans wanted to make the program more sustainable before it crossed the finish line.
When you’re in the minority party, it can be difficult to have your ideas heard much less accepted.
In this case, not only were many of our ideas finally accepted, but they were hailed as responsible compromise by all sides. It’s safe to say this health care legislation - with its $714 million in savings to the taxpayers — would not have happened had Republicans simply overridden the governor’s veto.
Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, can be reached at (651) 380-4345 or email@example.com.