Archive for the ‘Mark Dayton’ Category

Gov. Dayton just issued a faux apology about his statement that the Affordable Care Act is unaffordable. In Gov. Dayton’s faux apology, Gov. Dayton said “Last week I said that the Affordable Care Act ‘is no longer affordable to increasing numbers of people.’ I regret that my statement was wrongly used against Democratic candidates in Minnesota and elsewhere.” That’s proof that my translation was right in this post.

In that post, I quoted Sen. Lourey, the chief author of the bill that created MNsure in the Senate, as saying “This is sort of a one-time solution for 2017 to take the sting out of the rates for individuals, but we’ll still be feeling the pressure to find a longer term solution.” My translation read “We know it’s bad. We just don’t want to lose the majority because we a) voted for MNsure and b) bragged about how wonderful it would be.”

Gov. Dayton’s faux apology isn’t that health insurance premiums in the individual market are skyrocketing. Gov. Dayton’s faux apology isn’t about the fact that deductibles make the ACA insurance policies essentially unusable. Gov. Dayton’s faux apology is to DFL candidates who’ve gotten hurt because Gov. Dayton unintentionally told the truth. In politics, that’s known as a gaffe. Here’s Gov. Dayton’s letter:

The other thing that Gov. Dayton said that caught my attention is where he quoted President Obama. Here’s that portion of the faux apology:

“Yesterday, President Obama said ‘Just because a lot of the Republican criticism has been proven to be false and politically motivated, doesn’t mean there aren’t some legitimate concerns about how the law is working now.’ I agree. For the 95 percent of Minnesotans who are covered through the Medicaid expansion, MinnesotaCare or through their employer, it’s working. It’s working for the 3 percent who qualify for the federal tax credits through MNsure. But the law isn’t working well for the 2 percent of Minnesotans in the individual market who don’t receive any financial assistance to pay for their coverage.”

That’s spin of the worst kind. When a little town in southern Minnesota gets devastated with a tornado, Gov. Dayton wouldn’t issue a statement saying that most Minnesotans weren’t affected, that only a tiny portion of the state’s population was devastated.

Statistically, Gov. Dayton is partially right. Everyone that’s buying health insurance is getting hurt either through high premiums or high deductibles or both. The thing that can’t be ignored is the fact that these people in the individual market are getting hurt because the ACA’s structure is flawed. Had the ACA been built with a high-risk pool, people wouldn’t be suffering through these skyrocketing premiums and unaffordable deductibles.

Finally, it’s time to shove President Obama off the national stage. He’s lying when he said that “Republican criticism has been proven to be false and politically motivated.” President Obama’s statements are spin. President Obama’s statements are politically motivated, too. He’d love to see a Democrat majority in the Senate. He doesn’t want to see his signature ‘accomplishment’ criticized by historians because it’s a total disaster. That would damage his legacy bigtime.

Gov. Dayton apparently hasn’t learned the first rule of holes. By admitting that DFL candidates are getting hurt because he told the truth in saying that the ACA isn’t affordable, he’s essentially admitted that the ACA is terrible policy. He was right the first time. It’s terrible policy.

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Kurt Daudt is stepping up in grade now that he’s taking on President Obama over the ACA. This fight started when Democrats, including DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, said that the ACA wasn’t affordable to an increasing number of people.

President Obama, thin-skinned as always, defended his signature ‘accomplishment’, saying “it’s worked,” but admitted the program wasn’t perfect. “No law is.” Enter Speaker Daudt. Speaker Daudt said “It’s absolutely unaffordable. I don’t even consider that health coverage.” Then Speaker Daudt added “It’s catastrophic.”

Actually, that’s exactly what it is. It’s catastrophic insurance at Cadillac plan rates. That’s verified by the fact that “one Arizona town [saw] a 75 percent hike and another in Minnesota seeing a 190 percent increase in deductibles over the course of four years.” Only an elitist or a politician thinks that’s affordable.

Speaker Daudt is right because the deductible is too high. That’s bad enough. Unfortunately for people who’ve bought through the individual market, that’s just part of the problem. The other part is the skyrocketing health insurance premiums. High deductibles and high premiums equal an unaffordable double whammy for families. Then there’s this:

With some families forced to shell out $2,000 a month for insurance that comes with a whopping $13,000 deductible, Daudt said for some the only option is to pull their coverage and pay a fee for not having insurance, which in 2016 came out to $695 per adult and $347.50 per child (up to a maximum of $2085.)

That isn’t affordable. That’s downright expensive.

This statement from DFL Sen. Tony Lourey is quite telling:

“This is sort of a one-time solution for 2017 to take the sting out of the rates for individuals, but we’ll still be feeling the pressure to find a longer term solution,” Sen. Tony Lourey said.

TRANSLATION: We know it’s bad. We just don’t want to lose the majority because we a) voted for MNsure and b) bragged about how wonderful it would be.

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Sen. Bakk stabbed Gov. Dayton in the back again, this time disagreeing with Gov. Dayton’s statement about the Affordable Care Act not being affordable. Gov. Dayton’s statement was “I’m not trying to pass the buck here but the reality is that the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable for an increasing number of people. We’re going to need both state and federal governments to step in and do what they need to do to remedy these problems.”

When asked if he agrees with Gov. Dayton’s statement, Sen. Bakk said that he disagreed, saying “No,” Bakk said when asked if he agreed, then continued “It’s 5 percent of the marketplace. We’ve got some problems in the individual market for people that can’t access the federal tax credit, for people over 400 percent of the poverty line. That’s the cohort where we have a problem. For 95 percent of people and for the people that are able to access the tax credits in the exchange, you know, I think this system is working.”

Essentially, the argument that Sen. Bakk is making is like a carpenter’s argument that the roof is waterproof except for the big hole in it. Saying that 250,000 people who are either getting gigantic premium increases or who can’t afford to buy health insurance isn’t a problem is what a heartless SOB might say in a difficult political situation right before an election. I’d triple-dog dare Sen. Bakk to tell these people that they don’t have a problem.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan famously said that “a recession is when your neighbor is unemployed” and that “a depression is when you’re unemployed”, then finishing by saying “the recovery starts when Jimmy Carter is unemployed.” Applying President Reagan’s principles to this situation is helpful. The Obamacare/individual market problem will get fixed when Sen. Bakk is no longer the Senate Majority Leader. The DFL has spent the last 3 years bragging up the ACA, accusing Republicans who said it wasn’t working well that they were employing political gamesmanship.

With huge premium increases in the individual market and unaffordable deductibles, the DFL’s chickens are coming home to roost. Contrary to Sen. Bakk’s statement, this is a crisis. Gov. Dayton admitted as much in this video:

Of course, Gov. Dayton has reversed course since then, now insisting “‘Hundred of thousands of Minnesotans’ will NOT see actual health insurance increases of 50% or more, because many people, who buy their policies through MNsure, will receive federal tax credits that will significantly lower their costs.”

Which is it, Gov. Dayton? What changed from the time you said that the ACA wasn’t affordable “for an increasing number of people” to the time you wrote that dishonest op-ed? Did you suddenly start thinking that it’s affordable? Did you get pressured by DFL candidates who said that they lost support right after you made that statement? Or are you just that dishonest?

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This article highlights how screwed up the ACA is. First, it’s noteworthy because it’s written by a lefty. Next, it’s noteworthy because the author admits that it’s messed up. It’s impossible to miss Marshall Helmberger’s disgust with the ACA, especially when he says “The el-cheapo UCare bronze plan that my wife Jodi and I bought for 2016 went from $657 a month to $1,221 a month, or $14,652 a year. And that is for an insurance plan with a $13,900 deductible, which means we would need to spend $28,552 before we would see any actual benefit from our insurance, beyond a free wellness visit or two.”

That isn’t affordable. That’s outrageous pricing. What’s worst is that the person is technically insured but this couple can’t afford to use it to get health care. What good is health insurance if you can’t use it?

Helmberger’s disgust with the ACA boiled over again when he said “Now, one of the principles of the Affordable Care Act was supposed to be affordability, as you might have guessed. In theory, you were supposed to be able to buy a silver-level plan for about ten percent of your annual income, which to most people would be considered affordable. But the theory isn’t met by reality these days. If you assume a fairly typical household income of $65,000 for two middle-aged (age 55) adults in Minnesota, you would qualify for no subsidy whatsoever under MNsure. At the same time, the cheapest silver plan you can buy in St. Louis County for next year has a monthly premium of $1,477 a month, or $17,724 a year, which would entail 27-percent of that same household’s income. Add in the thousands of dollars in deductibles and co-pays that this same couple would need to cover if they actually utilized any medical services and it easily pushes the actual cost of such a plan to one-third of their household income. That’s not affordable—it’s soul-crushing, and it would prompt most healthy people to abandon their insurance and pay the fine for going uninsured.”

We didn’t experience these type of outrageous premiums when Minnesota’s high-risk pool was in effect. Why didn’t DFL legislators keep that system in place? The DFL, starting with Gov. Dayton, Sen. Bakk and then-Speaker Thissen, had the opportunity to display leadership. Instead, they showed they were President Obama’s puppets. Thanks to their unwillingness to lead, Minnesotans are hurting more and more each day.

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This morning, I paid a quick visit to Zach Dorholt’s priorities page to see what Tina Flint-Smith Alida Messenger told him he believes. Earlier this week, at the St. Cloud Times-sponsored candidate forum, Dorholt said that he’d support a single-payer health care system. That was startling news to most of his constituents.

It’s startling because Dorholt avoided talking about the subject on his priorities page. On Dorholt’s priorities page, he said “As someone who works in the healthcare field I regularly see issues that if reformed, could make healthcare more efficient and affordable. Too many policies are made in St. Paul without the guidance of those who actually work with patients on a day to day basis. When elected, I will work to make sure that healthcare remains accessible and affordable to all of our citizens and that we get our fair share of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from Washington.”

First, it’s noteworthy that Dorholt is an ideologue first. It’s incidental that he works “in the health care field.” Further, it’s noteworthy that working in the health care field doesn’t automatically make you an expert on health care policy. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t have health care professionals on the MNsure board. I’m just arguing that we shouldn’t just pick someone for the board because they work in the health care industry.

Next and most importantly, Dorholt’s a little late in saying he’d “make sure that healthcare remains accessible and affordable to all our citizens.” The premiums in the individual market aren’t affordable. That isn’t just my opinion. It’s also Gov. Dayton’s opinion (sometimes) and Bill Clinton’s opinion:

It’s worth noting that Gov. Dayton initially said that the Affordable Care Act wasn’t affordable 2 weeks ago. This week, he’s written an op-ed saying things aren’t so bad. I’m betting that Hillary’s campaign called him and lectured him on saying something like that.

Finally, Dorholt can’t admit that the system Minnesota had prior to Obamacare/MNsure, complete with its high-risk pool, did a fantastic job insuring people with pre-existing conditions while keeping health insurance premiums for healthy people relatively stable. I’ve said this before and I’ll repeat it here: the federal government should’ve modeled their plan after Minnesota’s system. Unfortunately for Minnesota, our senators crumpled like spineless wimps and voted to destroy Minnesota’s system.

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Last week, Gov. Dayton said that the ACA was unaffordable. This week, in Gov. Dayton’s Strib op-ed, he’s insisting that things really aren’t that bad, saying most people “will NOT see actual health insurance increases of 50 percent or more, because many people, who buy their policies through MNsure, will receive federal tax credits that will significantly lower their costs.”

Gov. Dayton, if these subsidies “significantly lower” health insurance premium costs, why did you insist that the “Affordable Care Act isn’t affordable” anymore? We know you said that because it’s captured in this video:

Gov. Dayton’s most stunning admission in his op-ed is when he said “And while it is true that the Minnesota Department of Commerce finally “approved” the health insurers’ rate increases and enrollment caps, that approval was required to prevent those companies from following Minnesota Blue Cross Blue Shield and major insurers in other states from pulling entirely out of the individual market. Their departures are forcing about 2 million people in 32 other states to also find new coverage.”

That’s admitting that the major insurance companies will pull out of the individual markets if they aren’t granted major premium increases each year! It’s worth noting that Sen. Rubio forced this by getting a bill passed that ended insurance company bailouts. Think about that. President Obama knew that his signature achievement would bankrupt insurance companies if it didn’t have a bailout provision in it.

Compare that with Minnesota prior to Obamacare/MNsure. Minnesota virtually eliminated the uninsured by establishing a high-risk pool in 1976. Thanks to that system, Minnesota’s uninsured rate was a paltry 7.2% in 2007. Last week, I wrote this post, noting that the national uninsured rate was 15.5%.

Gov. Dayton and the DFL enthusiastically passed MNsure when the DFL controlled the legislature and Dayton was the DFL governor. In his op-ed, Gov. Dayton insists he needs an all-DFL legislature:

I ask you to vote for two years with DFL majorities in both the Minnesota House and Senate, in order to fulfill my pledge to you: A Better Minnesota.

Minnesotans, the last time we had a DFL governor and DFL majorities in the House and Senate, we got a Senate Office Building for fat-cat politicians and skyrocketing health insurance premiums. Exploding health insurance premiums and a $90,000,000 building for fat-cat politicians isn’t taking us in the right direction. I’m betting people think that that’s taking Minnesota in the wrong direction.

Finally, Gov. Dayton, if things aren’t that bad, why are you, Rep. Thissen and Commissioner Rothman calling this a crisis?

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It’s a certainty that Paul Thissen will either lie outright or, at minimum, exaggerate when talking about MNsure. Thissen’s op-ed in the Winona newspaper contains such an exaggeration.

In Thissen’s op-ed, the leader of the DFL in the House said “One of the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act forbids insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. This has helped dramatically reduce the number of uninsured Minnesotans, which means fewer uninsured Minnesotans are receiving care in emergency rooms — the most expensive form of health care (which is paid for by all of us).”

Actually, the ACA didn’t help “dramatically reduce the number of uninsured Minnesotans” because Minnesota already had a great system for insuring people with PECs. It was called MCHA, aka the Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association. MCHA was eliminated when MNsure was created. MCHA was a high-risk pool that took in people who had applied for health insurance but were rejected because they had a pre-existing condition. It was a guaranteed issue plan.

As a result of MCHA, Minnesota’s uninsured rate in 2007 was 7.2%. In 2012, Minnesota’s uninsured rate had dropped to 5%. It’s impossible to honestly say that the ACA helped “dramatically reduce the number of uninsured Minnesotans” when the number of Minnesotans who were uninsured was microscopic. If Rep. Thissen had been honest, he would’ve said it marginally helped “reduce the number of uninsured Minnesotans” but that isn’t how Rep. Thissen operates. It’s all exaggeration all the time with Rep. Thissen.

Here’s something else that Rep. Thissen said that’s false:

But a consequence has been more high-cost patients in the individual market, many more than insurers anticipated. Additionally, the cost of health care continues to rise. The escalating price of prescription drugs and other procedures is driving up the cost of health care for everyone, whether they are on the individual market or receiving insurance through their employer.

That isn’t true. Republicans predicted this exact scenario. They predicted that young people wouldn’t sign up for health insurance because it was too expensive. Republicans predicted that the people who signed up were people who had the biggest health issues. They were right.

Rep. Thissen is right that “prescription drugs and other procedures is driving up the cost of health care for everyone” but that was true prior to the ACA. The premium spikes in the individual market are directly attributable to the ratio of people who use health insurance a lot and the people who don’t use it often.

Obama, Gov. Dayton and the DFL needed lots of young healthy people to buy insurance. They didn’t. They were threatened with fines and the young people said ‘no thanks.’ The DFL tried enticing them with subsidies. Young people still said no thanks. A product must be terrible when people won’t buy it even when the government holds a gun to their heads. This paragraph is especially infuriating:

Second, we must stabilize the individual market. Scrapping MNsure entirely, as Republicans have favored, would not solve the underlying instability of the individual market. Rather, we should consider Minnesota-driven solutions. For example, to reduce costs we could spread the cost of the sickest Minnesotans across a larger group of Minnesotans through a reinsurance fund. We could also improve competition and choice by allowing Minnesotans to purchase insurance directly through MinnesotaCare regardless of income. It would be naïve to say this is an easy problem to solve. We should work together as Democrats and Republicans to solve it.

At the time that MNsure was created, Republicans tried getting the DFL to not eliminate MCHA. The DFL didn’t listen. Now that there’s a crisis that threatens the DFL’s stranglehold on St. Paul, Rep. Thissen is praising the reinsurance plan.

Democrats will always do the right thing — when it’s the only option left. Even so, lots of DFL legislators, including Zach Dorholt and John Marty, are pushing single-payer health insurance. Simply put, the DFL can’t be trusted to do the right thing with health insurance.

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I can’t believe I missed this statement from Rep. Paul Thissen about the massive health insurance premium increases caused by Obamacare. Better late than never, though, right?

Rep. Thissen opens his statement saying “Minnesotans deserve quality health care at an affordable price. These rate increases for Minnesotans buying coverage in the individual market are too high. It’s not fair to families. Republicans will inevitably point fingers and blame MNsure. But that won’t solve the problem. Indeed, many people buying through MNsure will see much lower, if any, premium increases because they will be able to receive tax credits.”

First, this statement was dated Sept. 30, 2016. That’s thirteen days before Gov. Dayton said that “Affordable Care Act isn’t affordable” for many Minnesotans anymore. Since Gov. Dayton’s statement, it’s likely that every legislator has heard horror stories from their constituents. Thissen’s statement also was published before Bill Clinton said that Obamacare was “the craziest thing” he’d ever seen.

Thissen’s tone changed dramatically when he published this statement on Oct. 14:

Rep. Thissen is lying when he talked about “insurance companies who are putting profits before patients.” This isn’t a misstatement. It isn’t a simple mistake. It’s an outright lie because Rep. Thissen’s known for quite some time that insurance companies were leaving MNsure because they were losing tens of millions of dollars. Further, Rep. Thissen knows that the Dayton administration had to approve massive premium increases and caps on how many people the insurance companies were required to enroll just to keep them from pulling out of MNsure entirely because they were losing money.

Thissen’s proposal isn’t a solution, either. It’s a temporary fix at best. Rep. Thissen can’t admit what will happen next year because it’s that grim. There’s no guarantee that these insurance companies won’t jump ship next year. In fact, I’d bet that they will abandon this sinking ship.

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After Gov. Dayton admitted that “the Affordable Care Act isn’t affordable anymore”, DFL legislators have been scrambling to undo the political damage caused by Gov. Dayton’s gaffe. It’s important to remember that the definition of a political gaffe, according to Michael Kinsley, is accidentally telling the truth. In that context, the Senate DFL is pretending that they’ve offered real solutions to fix the MNsure crisis. They actually haven’t proposed long-term solutions. This article highlights the Senate DFL’s non-solutions.

DFL Sen. Lourey, the chief author of the MNsure bill in the Senate, said “I’ve heard many proposals from Republicans over the past few weeks that sound very familiar. And they are familiar because we held hearings on these bills last session. From introducing a new tax credit to make premiums more affordable, to expanding MinnesotaCare and allowing all Minnesotans the option to purchase this more affordable coverage – we have offered up numerous money-saving plans that, had Republicans been willing to work with us, would have helped avert some of our current problems, rather than react as we are now.”

A tax credit sounds great — as a temporary fix. It isn’t a solution because insurance companies are still losing tens of millions of dollars. That’s why they’re dropping out of MNsure and dropping out of the other exchanges across the US. This is a list of legislation that the DFL proposed to fix this MNsure crisis:

Studying the benefits of creating a high-risk insurance pool is the closest thing the Senate DFL comes to providing a solution. Even that isn’t a solution, though, because it wouldn’t create a high-risk pool. It just studies the benefits of creating a high-risk pool. It’s like the difference between saving a drowning child and debating whether to save a drowning child.

Re-instating MCHA, Minnesota’s high-risk pool, would solve most of MNsure’s problems. First, insurance companies wouldn’t continue to lose millions of dollars. They might even make a profit, which would stop the rapid exodus from MNsure. That, in turn, would give families more health insurance options and more stable prices for healthy families.

DFL Sen. Jeffrey Hayden said this:

Shame on Republicans. They have spent years doing everything they can to tear down MNsure. Not once have they been a part of a constructive conversation about how to make changes and find solutions to lower costs. Now that premium hikes have gone up 50 percent and health insurance companies are pulling out of our individual market; they act horrified and offer ways to help.

It’s disgusting that Sen. Hayden can’t be truthful. First, Republicans have offered one solution to this crisis after another. The DFL consistently rejected those solutions. That’s verifiable fact. Next, the DFL insisted that MNsure would work.

At the MNsure bill signing ceremony, DFL Sen. Tony Lourey said that the “people won on this bill.” Rep. Joe Atkins said “This truly is a landmark day in Minnesota. This is the most significant reform of health insurance we’ve seen in Minnesota in 50 years.”

In other words, DFL legislators initially insisted that Republicans were playing politics with MNsure. Now that the DFL’s plan has blown up in their faces, they’re demanding that Republicans had an obligation to fix something the DFL insisted wasn’t broke.

Finally, Gov. Dayton was a huge cheerleader for MNsure. Had a Republican bill gotten to Gov. Dayton’s desk, which wasn’t likely, Gov. Dayton would’ve vetoed the bill just like he pocket vetoed the Republicans’ middle class tax relief bill. Simply put, the DFL was wrong about MNsure from the start. Republicans were right about MNsure from the start. Why would voters vote to put the DFL in charge of fixing the thing they broke in the first place? That’s as stupid, metaphorically speaking, as having a drunk driver serve as the designated driver. Nothing good can come of it.

Intentionally, Democrats in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate created Obamacare without a single Republican vote. They didn’t want any Republican votes because they didn’t want any Republican ideas. Likewise, DFL legislators in the Minnesota House of Representatives and Minnesota State Senate rejected every amendment that Republicans offered. They didn’t want any GOP ideas ‘soiling’ their plan.

Now that virtually every state exchange is collapsing, including Minnesota’s, DC Democrats and DFL legislators are whining that Republicans haven’t rescued them from the mess that they created by themselves. For instance, this article highlights this whining. Specifically, Don Davis wrote that “Dayton still supports the federal law. And he blamed congressional Republicans for refusing to take action to fix its flaws.”

The DFL, with Gov. Dayton acting as their chief cheerleader, enthusiastically created MNsure without a single Republican vote. This article by the St. Paul Pioneer Press’s Christopher Snowbeck, highlighted the DFL legislators’ congratulatory statements.

First, Snowbeck quoted Gov. Dayton as saying “This is not meant to serve the insurance industry, or any industry.” Next, Snowbeck quoted Sen. Tony Lourey, the chief author of the bill in the Senate, as saying “The people won on this bill.” It’s doubtful that Sen. Lourey would repeat that today.

Joe Atkins saidThis truly is a landmark day in Minnesota. This is the most significant reform of health insurance we’ve seen in Minnesota in 50 years.” Atkins was a co-sponsor of the bill in the House.

It’s important to note that, contrary to Gov. Dayton’s statement, Republicans have offered solutions to this crisis. It’s just that the DFL governor, like the DFL legislators at the time, have reflexively rejected the Republicans’ plans. Since Gov. Dayton’s statement that “the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable” to many Minnesotans, Senate Republicans put together a detailed plan to fix the crisis.

Even now, some DFL legislators aren’t admitting that they created a problem:

[Rep. Paul] Marquart said MNsure is a good program that needs help. To fix it, the state may need to bring back its high-risk insurance pool, he said.

That isn’t a fix. That’s a full reversal. It’s a return to what Minnesota had before the MNsure crisis.

DFL Sen. Rod Skoe of Clearbrook said MNsure needs to be fixed, not eliminated. “The cost of health insurance is driven by the cost of health care,” he said. But the administrative cost of many insurance plans is approaching 30 percent, which is too high, he added.

It isn’t likely that Sen. Skoe will be a senator when the 2017 session opens, partially because he helped create MNsure, partially because he fought for the SWLRT project rather than fighting for tax relief for his constituents.

In summation, Gov. Dayton’s criticism of Republicans is ill-informed or misguided. Republicans have offered solutions. It’s just that the DFL hasn’t liked the solutions because Republicans essentially said that the fix was to replace Obamacare with what had worked prior to Obamacare.

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