Pawlenty vetoes health care billby Lorna Benson, Minnesota Public Radio
Pawlenty criticized the reform bill for including too much new spending.
St. Paul, Minn. — The fate of the massive bill has been uncertain for months. Compromise legislation passed this week had whittled down the bill considerably from its original form.
In the end the bill's undoing appears to be a decision by House and Senate DFLers to spend surplus money from the Health Care Access Fund to extend state subsidized health insurance coverage to an additional 44,000 Minnesotans. Lawmakers knew the governor couldn't support more spending while the state is struggling to plug a projected $935 million dollar budget deficit, says Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung.
"This will come as no surprise to the legislators who have been working on it. They're aware that they have not met his concerns. They decided to go ahead and pass the bill anyway. That's their prerogative. But no one should all of a sudden be shocked and surprised when the governor vetoes this bill," McClung says.
The governor wants to tap the Health Care Access Fund to help plug the budget deficit. DFL House and Senate lawmakers have been adamant about using the fund to pay for additional health care coverage, among them, Rep Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.
"He is resistant to that. But I think in these kind of difficult economic times, times of insecurity on economics, making sure that people have access to quality health care is something that we really ought to deliver."
The business community is desperate to save money on health care, but it agrees with the governor that this is not the time to expand public programs, says Erin Sexton is Director of Health Care and Transportation Policy with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.
"We have a good safety net in Minnesota and that's important, but they are growing at a fast rate and I think everybody that looks at it says that it's probably a pretty unsustainable rate for our state budget."
For other lobbying groups, expanding public programs has been a top priority. The Minnesota Medical Association, made up of 10,000 physicians, sent a letter to the governor encouraging him to sign the health care reform bill, says Dr. James Dehen is President of the Minnesota Medical Association.
"Nothing's perfect in this bill but we have to do something. And I don't mean do the wrong thing obviously, but we can't continue on the status quo. The problem is not going to go away."
- All Things Considered, 05/13/2008, 5:50 p.m.