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Jim Knoblach, the GOP-endorsed candidate for House District 14B, issued this press release on his fundraising totals thus far:

KNOBLACH RAISES OVER $57,000, HAS $42,000 IN BANK

Jim Knoblach (St. Cloud), the Republican candidate for State House District 14B, announced today that he had raised $57,249 in the four months since he filed for office, and that he had $41,941 in the bank as of July 21, the preprimary reporting date.

This contrasts with his opponent, Zachary Dorholt, who reported raising $19,820, and reported having $8,626.61 in the bank. The vast majority of Knoblach’s funds were raised from Minnesota individuals. Over 60% of Dorholt’s funds were raised from out of state individuals, PACs, or lobbyists.

“I am gratified at the support of my many contributors,” said Knoblach. “This is a campaign funded by Minnesotans who care about our state, not out of state individuals and special interests.”

Knoblach also announced that he would not be accepting public subsidies for his campaign, for which he is eligible. This includes both a state check of approximately $3,000, as well as eligibility for the state political contribution refund.

“This move is necessary to allow me to combat the special interest money that already flowing into this race,” said Knoblach. “District 14B was the most expensive State House race in the state in 2012. My opponent beat King Banaian in large part because outside special interest groups poured over $300,000 into this race against Banaian. It would be crazy to agree to abide by the spending limit of $62,600 in exchange for receiving public funding, knowing this will likely happen again. It is an added bonus that by not agreeing I will not be spending taxpayer funds.

“I truly regret the enormous sums spent on these campaigns,” said Knoblach. “However, with my opponent likely to again benefit from hundreds of thousands of dollars of out of state special interest money, I need to be able to respond to his negative attacks.”

This is a shot across Mr. Dorholt’s bow. I’m sure Dorholt expected Jim Knoblach to be well-financed. I’m betting, though, that he wasn’t expecting this fundraising total from Jim.

What’s interesting is reading Mr. Dorholt’s campaign finance report. The reason it’s interesting reading is because it has a lengthy list of out-of-state special interests contributions. That begs the question of who Mr. Dorholt represents. Does he represent his district or does he represent the DFL’s Metrocrats? At this point, there’s little question that Dorholt represents Speaker Thissen’s wishes. He voted with Speaker Thissen 99% of the time on issues of importance.

The Twin Cities doesn’t need another representative. St. Cloud, however, needs a real representative in the worst way. HD-14B needs a legislator who’s interested in the important local issues. Zach Dorholt’s press releases don’t read like they’re written by someone interested in St. Cloud. They’re mostly about touting Gov. Dayton’s and the DFL’s so-called accomplishments.

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Minutes ago, I received this email alert from the Johnson for Governor campaign:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Gregg Peppin
July 28, 2014 Ph: 612-209-9351

NEWS RELEASE: Johnson Campaign Raises $169,595 Since June Report

GOLDEN VALLEY—Jeff Johnson, the Republican-endorsed candidate for Governor, has raised $169,595 since the June 16th campaign finance report.

His campaign had $122,886 cash on hand as of July 21.

“Our campaign is on track for a victory in the primary,” said Scot Crockett, Johnson’s campaign manager. “We have an active voter contact program with primary voters, television ads are being released, and we are working with the Republican Party to get out the vote on primary day,” Crockett said.

“I am confident that we will win in August, and beat Mark Dayton in November,” Crockett concluded.

While this isn’t a blockbuster total, it’s definitely a significant improvement over Johnson’s last fundraising report. Johnson’s trend is definitely heading in the right direction.

The Johnson campaign is heading in the right direction, too. Over the weekend, they hit Gov. Dayton with their sharpest criticism of the campaign:

“I believe strongly that if Dayton wins, PolyMet will not happen. He is getting and responding to great, great pressure from environmentalists. Saw it at the DFL Convention when they got a resolution on copper/nickel tabled,” Johnson said.

Hitting Gov. Dayton with this criticism in the Mesabi Daily News will have an impact. I’ve been reading MDN for about 4 years now. If I had to give MDN a nickname, it’d be the ‘Miners Daily News’ because their editor, Bill Hanna, focuses like a laser beam on mining issues.

While I wish the MNGOP had more cash on hand, the fact is that they’ve helped their endorsed candidates with their Victory Centers throughout the state. That’s likely helped Jeff Johnson’s GOTV operation. While this doesn’t guarantee a Johnson victory in the primary, it’s definitely helping unite the party.

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Jeff Johnson’s interview with Bill Hanna, the editor of the Mesabi Daily News, provided Johnson’s sharpest attack on Gov. Dayton yet. Here’s the heart of Johnson’s criticism:

“I believe strongly that if Dayton wins, PolyMet will not happen. He is getting and responding to great, great pressure from environmentalists. Saw it at the DFL Convention when they got a resolution on copper/nickel tabled,” Johnson said.

I think that’s accurate. Gov. Dayton’s silence is deafening, especially considering the fact that he’s called himself the “jobs governor.” It’s more like he’s the jobs governor as long as it doesn’t interfere with the environmental activists’ anti-mining agenda.

Ken Martin breathed a big sigh of relief when a watered-down pro-mining resolution to the DFL Party Platform was tabled before it came up for debate. Martin was happy because he kept the lid on the major differences between Range Democrats and the Twin Cities ‘Metrocrats’.

In siding with Twin Cities Metrocrats, Gov. Dayton sided with people whose median household income is $63,559. What’s Gov. Dayton’s justification for siding with the Metrocrats rather than siding with people whose median household income is $46,231? There was a time when Democrats stood up for the less fortunate. In this instance, Republicans are fighting for lower income people and the Democrats are fighting for Twin Cities elitists.

Those thinking that that’s just a political cheap shot should notice who serve as Conservation Minnesota’s strategic advisors. There’s no more anti-mining organization than Conservation Minnesota. Most of the people on that list are Twin Cities elitists. That’s who Gov. Dayton has fought for.

“I will do everything I can to get PolyMet and other copper/nickel projects open up here. This has been delayed far too long and the governor helping those delays by being silent. A governor’s silence on a major project like this with so many jobs is deadly.

Gov. Dayton’s leadership on this issue hasn’t existed. He’s hidden in his little cubicle and said nothing about PolyMet. Meanwhile, Gov. Dayton has fought hard for projects like Rochester’s Destination Medical Center and the Vikings stadium in Minneapolis.

Gov. Dayton didn’t hesitate about pushing for those projects. Why hasn’t he shown the same enthusiasm in fighting for the PolyMet project? Is it because the Vikings stadium and DMC were high priorities but PolyMet isn’t one of his priorities? If that’s the case, Gov. Dayton should just admit that jobs in northern Minnesota just aren’t the high priority for him that Twin Cities jobs are.

That’s political suicide but it’s the honest thing to do. Unfortunately, doing the right thing isn’t a priority with Gov. Dayton or the DFL. They’re worried about doing what will keep them in office. Doing what’s right for all of Minnesota isn’t a priority with Gov. Dayton or the DFL.

This was Jeff Johnson’s stiffest attack on Gov. Dayton yet. He’s been the candidate who’s put together a statewide organization. He’s leveled the sharpest criticism against Gov. Dayton. That’s why he was the GOP candidate who did the best against Gov. Dayton in the latest KSTP-SurveyUSA poll.

In this interview, Jeff Johnson didn’t shy from criticizing Gov. Dayton on an important issue. Republicans are looking for a candidate that will take the fight to Gov. Dayton. Jeff Johnson certainly fits that requirement. If miners are paying attention, they’ll know that he’s fighting for them. If they’ve paid attention, they know that Gov. Dayton hasn’t fought for them.

The evidence is clear. Gov. Dayton has been silent on PolyMet. He’s shown that he’ll fight for Twin Cities projects but he won’t fight for the biggest jobs project on the Range. If the Range wants 4 more years of getting ignored, they should vote for Gov. Dayton. If they want high paying jobs, their only choice is Jeff Johnson.

It’s that simple.

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If Greg Davids’ op-ed illustrates anything, it’s that Gov. Dayton isn’t a competent decisionmaker. Actually, Rep. Davids’ op-ed proves another thing. It proves that MNsure’s administrators and DHS bureaucrats are essentially worthless:

DHS and MNsure are simply shrugging their shoulders at the problem. “It’s not MNsure’s job to send the notices,” said one of many highly paid MNsure spokespersons. Part of the DHS response was that the mistake was “not made by a DHS employee, so we can’t answer that one.”

That’s a way of saying ‘we aren’t taking responsibility for MNsure’s failures.’ The problem is a MNsure problem caused by the MNsure website’s frequent failings. DHS should be in the loop on this, too. They’re the people processing the applications.

This ties into something that Jim Nobles, Minnesota’s legislative auditor, spoke about in January. I wrote this post about Nobles’ observations:

Nobles also said he would look into the effects of the May contract amendments. “It’s certainly something that I will pursue very vigorously to find out what triggered that decision,” Nobles said when the amendment was brought to his attention. “What exactly did it mean? Who exactly was…doing the project management?”

MNsure hasn’t been run properly from the start. The fact that the mild-mannered Jim Nobles is questioning who’s in charge should frighten people.

Saying that Rep. Davids “engaged in ‘reckless fear-mongering’” by demanding answers from Gov. Dayton is irresponsible. There’s nothing irresponsible about it. Rep. Davids, like the other 200 people serving in the legislature, is supposed to make sure that the government isn’t pissing people’s money away.

Unlike Gov. Dayton, though, Rep. Davids takes that responsibility seriously.

For more than a year, my colleagues and I have offered helpful solutions and constructive criticism to MNsure on many things, from data privacy to communicating our constituents’ problems with the failed website. Very few have been heeded, and the results keep getting worse.

It’s time for Minnesotans to replace Gov. Dayton and Speaker Thissen. They’re at the heart of this problem. They talk about bipartisanship when they’re in the minority but they’re into my-way-or-the-highway politics when they’re in charge. Thanks to that attitude, Minnesotans are getting hurt.

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Jay Kolls’ article highlights the Department of Human Services’ incompetence:

The Minnesota Department of Human Services sent 3,000 letters to homes of MinnesotaCare recipients who may have received incorrect monthly billing statements after they applied for health coverage through MNsure, the state’s new health care exchange. The letter tells those recipients the bills may have been wrong for several months, but they encouraged those clients to keep paying the bills anyway.

It’s ironic (and infuriating) that the Department of Human Services quickly sent out letters to MinnesotaCare applicant to keep paying their insurance premiums but they’re still working on sending out the letters to people who applied for MinnesotaCare but didn’t submit all of the paperwork that’s required for application approval.

Put a little differently, Dayton’s Department of Human Services wants its money ASAP but it isn’t that interested in getting MinnesotaCare applicants insured.

That’s a terrible priority to set.

State Sen. Michelle Benson, (R) Ham Lake, sits on the MNsure Legislative Oversight Committee. She says the MNsure vendors still play a role in this problem even though the billing is handled by DHS.

“If a private company told its clients to keep paying monthly health insurance premiums even if they might be incorrect, the Minnesota Department of Commerce would come in and clean house,” Benson said.

In addition to the Department of Commerce getting involved, it isn’t a stretch to think that Lori Swanson, Minnesota’s Attorney General, might start an investigation if a private company did this.

MNsure representatives did not want to do an on-camera interview with us because DHS handles all of its billing practices.

DHS officials also declined to comment on-camera but issued a statement that says, in part, “We are working with our IT staff and MNsure vendors to correct these issues, and MinnesotaCare coverage for those households remains in place.”

It isn’t surprising that the Dayton administration didn’t want to answer KSTP’s questions. They’re probably thinking that the last thing they want is to subject themselves to tough questions about a difficult situation.

With MNsure certain to not work again when this year’s open enrollment period begins and with the Dayton administration’s incompetence still manifesting itself, it’s a matter of whether Minnesotans will accept this level of incompetence. If they don’t, this won’t be a good year for Democrats.

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This video shows that Gov. Dayton and the DFL don’t want Minnesotans to know that they’re getting hit with a big spike in their health insurance premium until after the election:

Here’s Alycia Reidl’s testimony to the MNsure Board of Directors. Ms. Reidl is the president of the Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters in Minnesota:

I have a very simple message and a very simple request, which is that agents within Minnesota think it is imperative, very important, that the rates be released as early as possible to allow consumers to make decisions about what’s best for themselves and their families coming into 2015. We also believe that it affects small employers in a very significant way. We’re seeing average increases in the 30% range for small employers. I’ve seen some as much as 100% and they’re trying to make a decision about what’s the best coverages for their employees should they continue to offer group coverage going into 2015.

Now we don’t want that to happen. Let me assure you that it’s not any agent’s goal to have a small employer drop its coverage but with the rates and the disparity between small group and individual, it’s a real conversation that’s happening. And without knowing what the rates are going to be for 2015, and a significant number of small employers renewing on December 1st, they are in a position of not being able to make educated decisions for themselves and their employees.

The difference in cost for an employee, if they stay on their group plan, could be 50%, maybe 60% higher and so we ask MNsure to support that rates be released as soon as possible and certainly not waiting until November 15.

If rates are going to be that much higher, it’s understandable why Gov. Dayton and the DFL don’t want the rates released until after the election. Gov. Dayton and the DFL know that they’ll be swept out of office in November if people realize that the plan that the DFL legislature passed and that Gov. Dayton signed is ripping them off.

Two or three weeks back, Sarah Walker was part of the Almanac roundtable discussion. During that appearance, Ms. Walker lied through her teeth, saying that people were “getting better insurance at a cheaper price” than prior to MNsure. Ms. Reidl’s testimony verifies as fact that rates are already skyrocketing.

I broke this story on June 30. I’ve followed up on the story since then, including with this article.

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Bill Hanna’s article apparently touched a nerve with Ken Martin, the chair of the DFL. Check out Martin’s testiness:

Martin, in a telephone interview on Saturday that got testy at times, said the issue has nothing to do with PolyMet or investments.

“It’s about transparency in politics and government. And I don’t begrudge anyone for investments. I don’t care if it would be a DFLer, a Republican or someone with the Green Party … she was late in filing her disclosure statement and should not have been,” Martin said.

Of the 42 candidates who have filed for the state’s constitutional offices, only Housley and Sharon Anderson, who is seeking the GOP nomination for attorney general, missed the filing deadline.

Housley has since made her disclosure filing and said missing the deadline was just an honest oversight. “It was in my outbox and never went out. It’s there now,” she said in the PIM story. Housley said her stake in PolyMet is only about $300.

But Martin said emphatically the amount is not the issue. “It doesn’t matter how much. What matters is she didn’t have full disclosure as required on time,” he said in the MDN interview.

So why was PolyMet the only business Martin mentioned in the news release regarding Housley? “Again, this has nothing to do with PolyMet,” he said emphatically.

Then why was PolyMet cited in his news release? “I don’t care what company it was or what industry. What matters is the company is regulated by the State of Minnesota and she had not disclosed her investments.”

But why PolyMet? What about other companies? “I don’t know if she has investments in any other companies regulated by Minnesota. Researchers went through her last statement (filed as a state senator) and PolyMet popped out to them,” Martin said.

Martin’s diatribe was triggered by his getting trapped talking about a subject he wishes would disappear entirely. Further, this isn’t about transparency. If transparency mattered to the DFL, DFL legislators wouldn’t have coordinated campaign expenditures with the DFL in 2012:

The Minnesota campaign finance agency on Tuesday slapped the Minnesota DFL Senate campaign with a $100,000 fine improperly coordinating 2012 campaign mailings with candidates.

The result of investigation and settlement talks that lasted more than a year, the fine is one of the largest ever levied in Minnesota for campaign violations. The penalty stems from candidates and the party committee violating rules that ban coordination between independent spending and what is controlled by a candidate.

Apparently, Chairman Martin didn’t think transparency was important then:

“Ultimately, it is best to set this distraction aside and allow our members to focus on governing,” Martin said.

Karin Housley omitting a $300 invenstment got Martin’s attention but the DFL getting hammered with one of the biggest campaign fines in Minnesota history is “a distraction”? But I digress.

Notice Martin’s evasiveness when Hanna asked why he singled out PolyMet. Here’s a revealing insight into Martin’s behavior:

Martin made it clear in the MDN interview he has grown increasingly “fed up” with both sides of the issue.

Martin’s wish is that he didn’t have to ever deal with this issue because it’s a can’t-win issue for the DFL. It’s something Hanna notes in his article:

PolyMet is a controversial and touchy subject politically for the DFL Party on the Range, which has been a traditional bastion of Democratic support in elections. But there is a widening political chasm on the issue this election year.

The extreme environmental wing of the party both on the Range and in the Twin Cities, which has great influence among activists, is strongly against PolyMet and other copper/nickel/precious metals venture in the works, such as Twin Metals Minnesota near Ely and Babbitt. And some are against all mining or even exploration drilling.

Martin knows that Rick Nolan will likely lose his congressional seat if the Iron Range doesn’t overwhelmingly and enthusiastically support Nolan. Further, he knows that Gov. Dayton and Sen. Franken will be in the fight of their political lives if they aren’ enthusiastically supported by the Iron Range.

The truth is that this issue might split the DFL into tiny pieces. That’s the best explanation of what triggered Chairman Martin’s diatribe. He got testy with Bill Hanna because he’s seeing a brewing crisis for the DFL on the Range. The other explanation for Martin’s diatribe is because he isn’t used to reporters questioning the DFL. He’s gotten used to getting the red carpet treatment.

That won’t work this time because people on the Range are tired with the DFL’s ‘lip service support’ of the Range. They’re demanding authentic support, not just lip service support.

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If there’s anything that Sen. Franken and Gov. Dayton can’t defend, it’s the inevitable health insurance premium increase waiting for Minnesotans. Here’s what Sen. Franken said about the ACA on the one-year anniversary of the signing:

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) “In Its First Year, The Affordable Care Act Has Made It Easier And Cheaper For People All Over The Country To Get Quality Health Care.” Franken: “In its first year, the Affordable Care Act has made it easier and cheaper for people all over the country to get quality health care … I’m particularly proud to say that a provision I fought successfully to include in the law is already reining in health care costs for working families.”

(Press Release, Sen. Franken’s Statement On One-Year Anniversary Of Health Reform, Sen. Al Franken (https://www.franken.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=1403), March 22, 2011)

Here’s what Gov. Dayton said while signing MNsure into law:

Gov. Mark Dayton: “Today we are taking a major step forward to improve the quality and affordability of health care for the people of Minnesota.” (Press Release, 1.3 Million Minnesotans to Benefit from New Health Insurance Marketplace, Gov. Mark Dayton (http://mn.gov/governor/newsroom/pressreleasedetail.jsp?id=102-56566), March 20, 2013)

Here’s what I reported about health insurance premium increases:

This morning, in an exclusive interview with Examiner.com, Plombon went into detail about what’s happening with insurance premiums. What Mr. Plombon said is that some people who get their insurance through the small group market are renewing their policies. Thus far, Advantage 1 has seen these clients’ premiums increase from as ‘little’ as 30% to as much as 106%.

Gov. Dayton’s and Sen. Franken’s statements are wildly out of touch with reality. This statement is particularly out of touch with reality:

In its first year, the Affordable Care Act has made it easier and cheaper for people all over the country to get quality health care.

First, HealthCare.gov and MNsure still aren’t working. That’s before talking about all the people whose policies were canceled. The ACA didn’t make it easier to buy health insurance. Further, the ACA didn’t make health insurance cheaper. The ACA, aka Obamacare, caused health insurance premiums to spike. In light of these facts, it’s difficult to believe that the bill’s name is actually the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The stats show that health insurance isn’t less expensive with Obamacare. The report commissioned by the MNsure Board of Trustees proves that the website is still dysfunctional.

Minnesota can’t afford clowns like Al Franken and Mark Dayton. Their policies have cost Minnesota families millions of dollars.

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Thursday night, Ken Martin made the mistake of getting into a Twitter fight against Luke Hellier about health care. Predictably, Martin went straight for the DFL’s chanting point of saying that Minnesota has the cheapest insurance rates in the nation.

Being the bashful man that I am, I jumped into the fight, saying that Martin didn’t say that Minnesota’s insurance premiums were cheap. Martin said they were the cheapest in the nation, which is a comparitive statement. Here’s the exchange:

To be fair, Carly Melin favorited Chairman Martin’s tweet. In the interest of full disclosure, my tweets were favorited a half dozen times. That silliness aside, the important point was made that Obamacare/MNsure is expensive on a multitude of fronts. Let me count the ways.

First, MNsure is expensive because the Dayton administration has already spent $160,000,000 on a failed website. That’s just the tip of a Titanic-sized iceberg. It’ll cost tens of millions dollars more to get MNsure fully functional.

Second, MNsure is expensive because it created another level of bureaucracy on top of Minnesota’s Department of Human Services. Again, Minnesota’s taxpayers are getting hit for a bureaucracy that isn’t providing anything of value.

Third, insurance premiums are going up, costing Minnesotans money they don’t have.

Let’s talk, too, about how many people are insured now vs. how many were insured in 2012. According to Steve Gottwalt, then the chair of the House Health Care Reform Committee, 93% of Minnesotans were insured in 2012. Additionally, 60% of the people who weren’t insured then were eligible for taxpayer-subsidized health insurance.

In 2012, 4,929,000 people were insured. Of the 371,000 people who were’t insured, 60% were eligible for taxpayer-subsidized insurance. That’s another 222,600 people who could’ve been covered, meaning 5,151,600 people would’ve been insured in a state with a population of 5,300,000 at the time.

A simple ad campaign in 2012 could’ve brought the insured rate up to 97.2%.

Here’s why that’s significant. First, the advertising campaign wouldn’t have cost $160,000,000. Next, we wouldn’t be stuck with a website that doesn’t work. Third, there’s virtually no chance that the advertising campaign wouldn’t have helped get more people insured.

In terms of which system is better, that isn’t a fair fight. The system that we had prior to Obamacare/MNsure was light years superior to what we’re stuck with now.

If the DFL wants to stick with their 95% are insured/Minnesota has the cheapest rates in the nation mantra, Republicans should clobber them with the statistics I just used.

Chairman Downey, let’s make a point of telling people what they already know. Let’s tell them that families can’t afford Obamacare’s expensive health insurance premium increases. Let’s highlight the fact that MNsure a) is dysfunctional and b) won’t work right unless we’re willing to spend tens of millions of more dollars. Let’s have Ken Martin and Carly Melin defend those things.

MNsure/Obamacare is a winner for Republicans if we make the important arguments. It’s time we started consistently making those arguments.

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According to this article, insurance premiums will be going up — way up:

Julie Brunner is the Executive Director of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, which is the professional association for the HMOs that offer health coverage through MNsure. Brunner recently told a University of Minnesota symposium that she would “not be surprised if the health plans increased their rates by 8, 10, or even 12 percent.”

Gov. Mark Dayton tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he would be disappointed by such a large percentage increase in premiums, but the governor pointed out Minnesota still has the lowest rates in the country and that his goal is to keep it that way.

This isn’t surprising. I reported here that MNsure rates for people renewing through the small group exchange were seeing shocking high rates:

This morning, in an exclusive interview with Examiner.com, Plombon went into detail about what’s happening with insurance premiums. What Mr. Plombon said is that some people who get their insurance through the small group market are renewing their policies. Thus far, Advantage 1 has seen these clients’ premiums increase from as ‘little’ as 30% to as much as 106%.

Gov. Dayton and the DFL keeps repeating the part about Minnesota has the “lowest rates in the country.” It sounds great initially but it doesn’t mean much. People won’t care how we rank nationally if the rates are expensive.

If the rates are expensive, which they’ll certainly be, people won’t care where we rank as a state. They’ll care that they can’t afford health insurance. This part should worry Democrats, too:

Minnesota does not allow public disclosure of rate negotiations by law. University of Minnesota Professor Larry Jacobs says the public will start to get a very good idea of what the rates will be long before the November elections, even though the political strategy appears to indicate elected incumbents want the new rates withheld until after the elections.

Republicans aren’t worried about getting the political blame for the high rates because they didn’t vote for MNsure. Furthermore, they don’t have control over when the rates are released because Minnesota government is run exclusively by Democrats.

If Democrats get caught before the election trying to hide the rates for purely political purposes, they’ll get hurt by that desperate attempt. At the end of the campaign, Republicans will have repeatedly told Minnesotans that the DFL opted out of a system that was working quite well in order to implement a system a) that cost $160,000,000 to build, b) that’s expensive and c) unreliable.

That isn’t the type of trifecta that wins elections.

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