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      Today in the Budget

      Posted on February 19, 2013 at 2:01 PM

      Governor Dayton signs the Medical Assistance expansion bill
      Governor Dayton signes the Medical Assistance expansion bill, which will provide health insurance to over 35,000 Minnesotans

      At a news conference this morning, Governor Dayton signed a bill into law expanding the state’s Medical Assistance program, providing quality health coverage for an additional 35,000 uninsured Minnesotans. The governor was joined by authors of the bill, state Sen. Kathy Sheran, state Rep. Tom Huntley, state Sen. Jeff Hayden, state Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, and state Rep. Diane Loeffler.
       
      Today’s expansion of MA eligibility provides $129 million in projected savings for the 2014-15 biennium. This is in addition to the $1.3 billion that Minnesota is already expected to save by 2015 as a result of the Affordable Care Act. The governor’s budget proposal builds on these savings and includes additional improvements to Medical Assistance that will provide coverage for a total of 145,000 Minnesotans.
       
      One of Governor Dayton’s first acts in office was signing an Executive Order expanding access to Medical Assistance for 83,000 low-income Minnesotans. In doing so, the governor provided access to quality health care for those who need it most – reducing the burden of uncompensated care on hospitals and saving an estimated 20,000 health care sector jobs. A recent Colorado survey showed that expanding MA would create 14,000 new jobs in the first 18 months of expanding that state’s MA program and generate an additional $128 million in local tax revenue.
       
      The bill signed into law today builds on that important progress by covering more uninsured Minnesotans, maximizing federal funding for public health care programs, and simplifying the enrollment process. Providing coverage for more Minnesotans will reduce the hidden tax that is passed onto Minnesotans with health insurance to pay for uncompensated care.
       
      Governor Dayton & Commissioner CasselliusLater today, Governor Dayton joined Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius and state Rep. Debra Hilstrom at Northport Elementary School in Brooklyn Center to read a book to Kindergarten students as part of “I Love to Read Month.” The governor’s budget would invest $40 million to provide free all-day Kindergarten for more than 46,000 kids. Numerous studies show that all-day Kindergarten programs consistently lead to better preparedness for students and higher achievement; some studies suggest a return on investment as high as 3:1.
       
      In the News
       
      Hibbing Daily Tribune
       
      Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Lucinda Jesson was in Hibbing to learn about a program that helps Iron Range school children receive mental health services.
       
      Educators, counselors, mental health advocates, representatives from Range Mental Health and parents of children who receive school-based services met with Jesson to tell her about what’s happening with school-based mental health programs in northern St. Louis County.
       
      “I said: ‘Governor, we really need to do more across our state of what they’re doing in Virginia and Hibbing and up on the Range,’” [Jesson] said.
       
      In his budget, Dayton is proposing to double the capacity of schools for mental health prevention and early intervention services. If the funding goes through, it would provide services for about 14,000 additional students at 840 additional school sites.

      South Washington County Bulletin
       
      While much has already been written about the governor’s plan, I wanted to take this opportunity to provide my take on the 2013 legislative session and our ongoing budget discussions.
       
      On the spending side of the budget equation, I am most eager to join the governor in making funding for statewide early childhood education and all-day kindergarten a top priority.
       
      Every Minnesota kid deserves access to a world-class education, and research has proven how crucial it is to provide enriching educational opportunities to kids at an early age.
       
      No less important, I join the governor in calling for much needed investments in the areas of higher education and workforce development. As our state’s biggest employers look to grow here in Minnesota, they will depend on our highly trained and educated workforce to stay competitive in a global economy. At the same time, the cost of our state’s colleges and universities should not bury our students and families in debt.
       
      Pioneer Press
       
      Tourism in Minnesota would get a major boost under proposals from Gov. Mark Dayton and a local legislator. Dayton included more than $16.2 million for Explore Minnesota, the state's tourism department, in each of the next two years in his budget proposal. That's almost twice as much as the department will receive this year.
       
      Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, introduced a bill this week that would appropriate that same increase to the department. "We know that bringing in new money from other states is a good way to increase our economy," Saxhaug said.
       
      Tourism and travel generated $11.9 billion in gross sales and $769 million in state sales tax revenue in Minnesota in 2011, according to Explore Minnesota. That included $79.2 million in gross sales and $5.1 million in sales tax in Beltrami County, where tourism is a major driver of the local economy.