House passes $164M in health care cutsby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The Minnesota House has passed a budget bill that cuts spending on health and human services programs by $164 million.
Tuesday night's 79-54 vote followed nine hours of debate. The bill moves Minnesota into early compliance with the new federal health care reform law, but Rep. Steve Gottwalt, a Republican from St. Cloud, said the state doesn't have the matching money to buy into the federal program.
"I think this bill reflects a lack of innovation, of reform and a sense of honesty," Gottwalt said. "Because you are in fact making promises you cannot deliver on. There is no way that you can cash flow this bill the way it's set up."
DFL Rep. Tom Rukavina of Virginia said he doesn't like the spending cuts, because local hospitals and nursing homes are already in tough financial shape. But he said the House bill is still better than Republican alternatives.
"I don't want to vote for this bill today. I'm tired of cutting. I'm tired of hurting people," Rukavina said. "But I'm going to vote for it, because I'm afraid of what Pawlenty is going to do. Dig a ditch, bury them in it? I don't know. So, I've got to vote for this."
The House bill also replaces an earlier compromise agreement to preserve state-run health care for more than 30,000 vulnerable adults.