Votes planned on health and welfare bill today despite veto threatby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — The Minnesota House and Senate planned to vote Wednesday on a new Health and Human Services bill that cuts $114 million from the budget in 2011.
The bill also cuts $155 million in the 2012-2013 budget cycle.
Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said the bill protects the state's most vulnerable residents while taking advantage of federal funding that will help address the state's budget deficit.
A major part of the bill includes an early expansion of Medical Assistance that would allow General Assistance Medical Care recipients to continue to be covered until the federal government fully funds the program in 2014.
Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty has opposed an early expansion of Medical Assistance. On Wednesday, while buying his fishing license ahead of this weekend's opener, Pawlenty called the bill "problematic."
He said he would likely veto the bill, but acknowledged there would be time Wednesday afternoon to fix certain things ahead of votes planned for Wednesday night.
Berglin said she hopes she and Huntley can persuade Pawlenty to expand Medical Assistance early, even though it will cost the state $188 million.
"I think it's important for the governor to be working with us," she said. "The bill brings in a lot of federal money to help us with the problem that we have now."
Huntley said the bill does not cut nursing homes, which he said was a priority for the House.
"I would urge the governor to put aside his political ambitions and do the right thing for the people of Minnesota," he said.
During a conference call Wednesday morning, DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher said the bill also protects mental health care and child care money.
"Working parents need to be able to have child care for their children to be able to get this economy back rolling again," Kelliher said.
Dental care through State Operated Services is also protected.
The cuts included in the bill will affect low-income families, Kelliher said.
The votes on the Health and Human Services bill might not come until after 9 p.m. Wednesday because of a House rule that says a conference committee report must be posted for 12 hours before it can be considered on the House floor.