While the Fergus Falls Daily Journal had a hard time getting Gretchen Hoffman to return calls for its first story on the budget Governor Dayton signed after she interviewed with a local conservative talk radio show, the Journal got its chance.
Hoffman holds out
Hoffman, Langseth talk budget votes delivers many of the same points she made on air the day before--and which PlainsDaily.com notes in Hoffman: $1.5 Billion in One-Time Spending Now Offset By $10 Billion In Savings Over Next Decade. That $10 billion comes from "reforms" in the HHS bill, she told the Fergus Falls paper:
Already uncomfortable with the size of the $34 billion budget Republican lawmakers were pushing by the end of the regular session, Hoffman balked at over $1 billion in new funds from school fund deferments and tobacco settlement bonds. She only relented when she was convinced that Dayton’s compromise also allowed for significant GOP reform measures, like savings she said could total $10 billion in health and human services over the next decade.
The Tales of Hoffman Chorus
Hoffman isn't alone among Minnesota Republicans to be claiming a $10 billion savings over 10 years from the HHS bill, nor crowing about Dayton signing on for reforms, in the special session and the future.
Take Mike Parry, holding the same hand in this game of liars' poker. In Parry, Fritz weigh in as state shutdown ends, Faribault Daily News staff writer Joseph Lindberg reports:
Sen. Parry said overall, he was pleased with the reforms included in the budget bills — but displeased with the governor.
“The bills that were signed today will bring us long-term structural costs savings,” he said. “We have major fiscal reforms in health and human services that will save us $10 billion over 10 years.”
Sen. Parry said there was more reform in these budget bills than any other time in Minnesota history, and was excited to travel his district in the next few months to deliver that news directly to the public.
That's one road trip Bluestem will eagerly follow. But what are those reforms that will deliver billions and billions and billions across five biennia?
Perhaps it's accounted for by what freshman representative Roger Crawford posted on his campaign site in Budget includes Important Reform:
We all can probably find areas of disagreement with our new state budget, but that is the nature of compromise. We needed to end this state shutdown and pass some key reforms that will put Minnesota on a more sustainable fiscal path.
We passed a package of 12 budget bills Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. The governor has signed each of them into law. Our General Fund budget will be $34 billion, more than I thought we should spend, but down from the $39 billion we were projected to spend. It also is more affordable than the $37 billion Gov. Mark Dayton proposed.
The health and human services bill probably is the best example of improvements we made through reform. This portion of our budget was set for a 22-percent spending increase, but we managed to draw that down to a more sustainable 4.8 percent; this will save taxpayers an estimated $10 billion over the next decade.
There's that "General Fund" budget again (see MnPublius's discussion of the blarney), but at least the $10 billion figure is connected with an explanation for the supposed savings. That is, if spending on health and human services is held at 4.8 percent. Presumably for the two-year cycle, but the math isn't spelled out.
In yesterday's Star Tribune, Jim Abeler shared more deets in A job well done on health, human services:
We accomplished our work without surcharges and without tax increases. We bent the cost curve from future increases of over 22 percent down to a manageable 4.8 percent. We prevented cuts to nursing homes, boosted rural care and minimized reductions to disability services.
Where reductions were needed, they were targeted and done with care to maintain the integrity of the whole system. We reformed the critical areas of care delivery, county services and safety net programs. Perhaps most important, we made public programs more flexible, accessible, effective and sustainable. ...
Read the specifics in his article.
But the GOP base isn't buying the numbers--either the $34 billion figure or the promise of savings. Eric Roper's piece in today's Morning Hotdish e-newsletter from the Strib suggests that horde of tea party barbarians might be ready to glitter bomb Kurt Zellers and Amy Koch's offices--and perhaps even take a trip to Waseca:
Things got a bit testy on KTLK-FM Thursday morning as host Bob Davis and a chorus of callers assailed GOP lawmakers for not restraining spending in the final budget. “The spin now is ‘Oh look, look what we’re doing, we’re saving money over the next two years.' Bull,” Davis said. “I’m just saying, I’m going to call bull. It’s BS. Because they increased the size of the budget.” Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, called in later to defend his caucus and list reforms in the bills. “I was somewhat disappointed listening to folks this morning, because they don’t understand,” Parry said. “And unfortunately, Bob and Tom, I don’t think you guys understand yet either.” A caller responded with “baloney.” “You didn’t cut like you said you were going to cut,” he said. “We put you in the place to cut the budget and you didn’t. You raised it.”
Reforms or deforms?
Already, the press is picking up on Hoffman and Parry's "reform" meme. In Dayton, GOP could reform their relationship in 2012, Forum Communications Don Davis writes:
Dayton also said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson will continue working with GOP leaders to find more efficient ways to deliver health-care services to the state’s poor, disabled and elderly. Health care is the biggest cost problem government faces.
Bluestem has a simple question: are these $10 billion in savings more real than the $34 billion budget figure cited? And will spending growth for health and human services (given the aging of the population) really be able to be held to under 5 percent?
One of the reforms mentioned doesn't have to do with spending, after all, but eliminating a revenue source. Coincidentally enough, there's a $10 billion tax cut in the bill. In a party press release, Republican Party of Minnesota Hails Budget as a Victory for the MNGOP and the People of Minnesota failed burrito baron and MNGOP state chair Tony Sutton crowed:
“Republicans were able to eliminate a $5 billion differential between what Gov. Dayton originally wanted and the final $34.3 billon general fund budget without raising taxes. Republicans even eliminated a tax – the 2 percent provider tax hidden on every patient bill issued in Minnesota – a $10 billion savings to patients over 10 years,” Sutton said.
Now, that's lost revenue, as the hypothetical savings are passed on, as Sutton says, to patients rather than the government. Is the reduced rate of increases in spending tied to the loss of revenue?
Photo: Not State Senator Gretchen Hoffman.