Archive for the ‘Michelle Benson’ Category

At last week’s hearing about the crisis within the Minnesota Department of Human Services, it became instantly clear that transparency and cooperation weren’t priorities for top HHS officials:

To get the answers to those questions, Benson and Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, asked seven current and former top DHS brass to attend the hearing. They included Lourey and his chief of staff, Stacie Weeks; the on-leave inspector general, Carolyn Ham; acting inspector general Bob Jacobsen; and the two department deputies who resigned, then unresigned in the wake of Lourey’s departure: Claire Wilson and Chuck Johnson. But of those seven invitees, only one showed up: acting DHS Commissioner Pam Wheelock, who took the job July 15 and will relinquish it to new DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead on Sept. 3.

This was Gov. Walz’s equivalent of giving Sen. Benson the finger. While campaigning, Gov. Walz said that transparency and unity would be cornerstones of his administration. The evidence is now in. It proves that Gov. Walz doesn’t put a high priority on transparency, cooperation or unity.

Carolyn Ham, disgraced HHS IG
It figures that the only official that showed up is the person that’s leaving. That fits perfectly with the Walz administration’s governance-by-stiff-arm philosophy.

The lack of participation — and the subsequent paucity of new information revealed – was anticipated by Benson in her opening comments, in which she compared trying to get information out of the agency with the arcade game “Whack-a-Mole.” “Somehow the Legislature never gets direct answers,” Benson said. “It’s time for the shoulder-shrugging to stop. And for those who say it’s time to move on, that there’s nothing to see here, I can tell you it’s not time to move on; it is time to learn a lesson.”

If the DFL wants to offer nothing but silence on why there’s rampant fraud in several major programs, that’s their right — for the moment. Don’t be surprised if the DFL’s refusal to be transparent is turned into a potent campaign issue. If Minnesotans hope to determine why there’s rampant chaos within HHS, they’ll need to rely on Michelle Benson and Jim Abeler.

Jim Nobles is the other official who will get to the bottom of this. It won’t come from the Walz administration:

After 10 minutes of Wheelock going through slides describing the agency’s functions and beneficiaries, Benson interrupted.
“We sent a list of the topics we were interested in and so far you haven’t hit on any of those, and I am wondering when your presentation is going to get to those?” she asked.
“I’ll get to those very quickly,” Wheelock answered.
“I think now would be a good time,” Benson said.

As obvious as it is that Wheelock was stalling, that isn’t the galling part of her presentation. This is:

“At some point, we have to accept that these are personal choices,” she continued. “I have not found any issue about impropriety. I have not found any issue about any kind of criminal activity. There is no scandal. There is no chaos. I think it’s time to move on and let these people have some personal privacy and lives.”

Right. Toney Lourey accepted a government job that afforded him a annual pay raise of over $100,000 dollars, then abandons it 6 months later. That happens all the time. It’s virtually routine. Not. There’s no question that there’s a scandal here. Jim Nobles investigated the matter. He determined that there was rampant fraud.

If these DFL bureaucrats and DFL legislators want to say that there isn’t a scandal within HHS, that’s a fight Republicans should be thrilled to fight.

Anyone that thinks that the Minnesota Department of Human Services crisis will soon be a thing of the past is either delusional or they didn’t see Jodi Harpstead’s opening interview on Almanac Friday night. Fortunately for those that want to be well-informed but were otherwise detained, I DVRed the interview. This is that interview:

The first thing that Ms. Harpstead said is “Well, what I know first is that the people at the Department of Human Services are the same sort of caring and competent people that I work with at Lutheran Social Services.” When I think of Lutheran Social Services, aka LSS, caring and competent aren’t part of the list of nouns and adjectives I’d use to describe LSS. Unless there’s divine intervention at LSS and HHS, those words won’t become part of my list of nouns and adjectives describing those organizations.

When Eric Eskola asked Ms. Harpstead where the problem areas existed, Ms. Harpstead replied “Yeah, well, this year, there’s been a lot of change, a lot of public change, there’s been some morale issues and we need to get to work on all of that. When asked what was the first things she’d dive into, Ms. Harpstead replied “Well, the very first thing that I hope to bring is calm and healing and rebuilding teamwork among the people in the Department. They’ve been through a lot this year and they need to have a lot of that settle down so they can get back to their good and effective work.”

Notice that Ms. Harpstead didn’t mention a word about eliminating the corruption or fraud that Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles found. With Ms. Harpstead, it’s all about restoring morale to the workers. Up to this point in the interview, she hasn’t mentioned a word about eliminating the fraud and corruption identified within HHS. Pay attention to Ms. Harpstead’s underlying message. Hint: It doesn’t have anything to do with eliminating fraud or corruption.

Further, insisting that HHS has done “good and effective work” is like insisting that the Titanic didn’t sink that fast. Here’s more from the interview:

They’ve been through a lot this year. They’ve been through a lot of public scrutiny. There’s been all kinds of comments made about their work and we need to get past that and get back to the good work that they do. When asked about how she’ll deal with the “pretty low threshold” in terms of credibility, Ms. Harpstead replied “Well, first of all, I’d say that low credibility — I appreciate what you’re saying — has not been my experience working with the Department of Human Services and so I think we need to get in there and settle things down, get back to work and do the good work that the Department has always done and yet we still have to solve some of the problems that are there, move on from there and have the Department get back to the work it does.”

Later, Ms. Harpstead said that “The Department needs some space, though, to regroup and rebuild its teamwork to get back to its good work.” Please, someone on the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee that she isn’t walking into a smooth-running department with a reputation for integrity and excellence. She’s walking into a department in turmoil that’s known for “rampant fraud”, corruption and arrogance. They haven’t gotten this reputation by accident. They’ve earned this reputation.

Based on Ms. Harpstead’s statements, she seems oblivious to the things that need fixing. If she maintains that attitude, this crisis will get worse.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse within Minnesota’s Department of Health and Human Services, Gov. Tim Walz makes it much worse. Gov. Walz made the situation much worse by picking Jodi Harpstead to take over as commissioner of HHS in September.

Commissioner Harpstead is currently employed as the CEO of Lutheran Social Services, aka LSS. For the past 5+ years, LSS has specialized in the Refugee Resettlement program. That means that they’ve specialized in hiding important details about who was coming into Minnesota’s communities. This isn’t speculation. It’s well-documented fact.

When former City Councilman Jeff Johnson participated in a discussion on the refugee resettlement program, he expressed frustration with LSS:

To summarize that meeting, what I saw, four things were occurring. One, we have a nonprofit religious organization, OK, taking federal dollars, and they were pocketing approximately $1,000 per refugee. The allocation’s about 3,300 (dollars), but they got to keep about $1,000 per refugee, OK? They were not being transparent with the public, and it got to the point where they actually had a deputy at the door monitoring who was coming into the meetings. And I said you need to open up these meetings because you’re using federal dollars, you’re a nonprofit organization, and to me it was becoming apparent that they were acting like a for-profit corporation.

LSS was the volag running the meetings. Now, Gov. Walz has tapped the CEO of LSS to be the commissioner of HHS. Saying that HHS is embroiled in a crisis is understatement. Part of the crisis is rampant fraud within HHS.

When HHS Commissioner Tony Lourey abruptly resigned last month, he didn’t say why he was leaving, other than saying that the Department needed new leadership that he wasn’t capable of providing. The week prior to Lourey’s resignation, his 2 deputies resigned without an explanation. They’ve since returned to their positions.

If ever there was a department that needed a massive infusion of transparency, HHS is it. Hiring a woman whose current organization specializes in hiding things from government officials isn’t a first step towards building confidence with the public.

This hiring smacks of arrogance in the worst way. This is Gov. Walz’s attempt to stiff-arm the legislature, at least the part that gives a damn about providing oversight. (At this point, the DFL House isn’t interested in providing oversight.)

This week, Senate Republicans held a 3.5 hour-long oversight hearing into why “the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and the White Earth Nation received $25.3 million in excess payments for medically assisted treatments covered through Medicaid over several years.” At the hearing, Committee Chair Michelle Benson said “The taxpayers didn’t make this mistake. They’re not the ones who used the judgment to cause the overpayments, why should they be held responsible?” She also said that “lawmakers shouldn’t have to allocate $25 million in additional funds to cover overpayments to two tribes.”

HHS needs a serious culture change. It’s questionable that Ms. Harpstead will provide that type of leadership. The organization she’s currently running specializes in secrecy and stiff-arming local politicians. That isn’t the reputation of a reformer. Make no mistake, either. HHS needs a reformation:

Other DHS employees or former employees shared with the committee their concerns about what they’d faced at the department. The former Medicaid program director told the panel bureaucrats in the department rejected advice from medical professionals and abruptly dismissed him in July.

And Faye Bernstein, a DHS compliance officer, said she was put on temporary leave when she raised concerns about compliance in state contracts. She was later allowed to return to her post and appeared Tuesday on a vacation day. She said she’d received notice ahead of the hearing that she could be terminated for her comments to lawmakers.

Think about that a minute. Bernstein was “put on temporary leave” because “she raised concerns about compliance” issues. If that isn’t proof that HHS needs a total reformation, then it’s hopeless.

The Senate has the constitutional responsibility of confirming commissioners. Unless Sen. Benson’s committee gets proof that Harpstead is serious about changing the culture at HHS, the Senate should reject her, then tell Gov. Walz that he needs to appoint someone who is committed to transparency and reformation.

Gov. Walz took time to visit the Vikings’ training facility. Apparently, he thinks that being the CEO of the state is a part-time responsibility. Thus far, he’s been a huge disappointment.

If Minnesota taxpayers aren’t outraged with the Tim Walz Department of Human Services lack of integrity, they will be when they read this:

Today Senator Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) renewed her call to split the Office of Inspector General into a separate department in light of the continued personnel and culture problems within DHS. Senate Republicans included the change in the Health and Human Services budget passed on May 1, 2019.

“Yesterday’s revelations that a whistle blower was escorted out of her office after emailing her concerns about the legality of government contracts is more evidence the culture at DHS needs to change,” said Sen. Benson. “The change should start with an independent OIG that is open to hearing fraud reports, pursues them without bias, and protects the people that report problems.”

“We proposed making the OIG independent and accountable to the Governor last session. During negotiations, House Democrats and the Governor’s office instead suggested a ‘Blue Ribbon Commission’ to cut costs. I appreciate the effort, but the Blue Ribbon Commission hasn’t been assembled yet and DHS is crumbling under the weight of poor leadership. We need real reforms, not just cost-saving measures, to change the culture and purpose of the agency from top-to-bottom,” Benson concluded.

Senate Republicans have established a website (www.mnsenaterepublicans.com/mnwhistleblower) for DHS and other state government whistleblowers to reports their concerns. “It’s clear leadership at DHS is not taking fraud or abuse seriously. We want all DHS and state agency employees to have a safe place to report their concerns. We will keep their complaints anonymous and pursue them with the full weight of the legislature to determine whether tax dollars are being wasted or abused.”

The current Inspector General, Carolyn Ham, remains on leave after the Legislative Auditor highlighted serious concerns with her management of the OIG. On Friday, July 12, Ham said her investigation was going to start today, July 23. The following Monday, the Governor contradicted Ham’s statement and said the investigation had already began. Senate Republicans have not been officially informed of when the investigation began and the public remains in the dark on the status of the investigation.

If Democrats don’t fix this crisis, they can kiss their House majority good-bye. Right now, it’s Gov. Walz and House Democrats that are obstructing real change. Sen. Benson and other reform-minded Republicans have proposed substantive changes. That leaves things in the DFL House’s lap.

The DFL’s proposed Blue Ribbon Commission is a joke, especially compared with the Senate GOP’s plan to making the Office of Inspector General independent of the Department they’re tasked to protect. If the DFL wants to stick with that position, that’s fine. It’s just that they’d better prepare to hand over their chairman’s gavels.

The fact that Gov. Walz hasn’t lifted a finger on starting the investigation into Carolyn Ham suggests that he’s disinterested in fixing the Department of Human Services. It might not hurt him politically but I’m betting that the MNGOP will tie his inaction and the DFL’s unseriousness around the DFL’s necks.

Anyone that thinks this Lourey resignation isn’t a big story is kidding themselves. This afternoon, Sen. Michelle Benson issued this statement regarding Commissioner Lourey’s resignation:

I want to thank Commissioner Lourey for his service to the state of Minnesota. Going forward, reform must be the top priority at DHS. Their technology is failing and costing too much. Their programs are filled with fraud and wasting taxpayers’ dollars. The new commissioner should examine DHS from the bottom up and prove they can meet basic benchmarks in their budget, program integrity, and technology.

This is further proof of what Republicans have been saying since the Walz administration began promoting ONECare, his massive public healthcare program – DHS is simply not able to take on a project of that scope and size.

It would be my recommendation that any future DHS commissioner focus on reform and accountability rather than new programs if they expect confirmation from the Senate. That’s exactly the right prescription for what’s ailing MN DHS. I’d also say that the Department is in turmoil but that’s too obvious. A 10-year-old could see that. Kurt Daudt issued this statement this morning:

The abrupt, unexplained departures of the top three officials at DHS in the past week is deeply troubling, and indicative of turmoil at our largest state agency. Minnesotans deserve answers and transparency from Governor Walz about what’s going on.

Lourey’s resignation is the latest in a major exodus of top leaders at the agency. Last week, Deputy Commissioners Chuck Johnson and Claire Wilson resigned unexpectedly without explanation from DHS. A former DHS Director, whose position was unexpectedly eliminated after 13 years in June, called for an investigation by the Walz administration citing “systemic issues with the leadership culture of the agency.'”

In the same statement, Daudt announced that “Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michelle Benson, who also serves as Chair of the Senate HHS Finance and Policy Committee, and Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria” would join him for “a noon press conference to discuss the latest developments at DHS.”

Rep. Franson is the leading authority in the House on child care issues. That leads me to think that this shake-up at Human Services is, at minimum, partially caused by the child care fraud investigation. Frankly, it sounds like Human Services is putting the fun out of dysfunctional. Starting with MNsure, then proceeding to the child care fraud investigation to the OneCare initiative, it’s difficult to point to a recent success story at the Department.

Saying that Daudt, Benson and Franson were upset is understatement. To say that they criticized Gov. Walz over these multiple scandals is understatement, too. The harshest criticism early in the press availability came from Kurt Daudt when he said that if Gov. Walz kept ignoring the problem, he’d own the problem. That’s exactly right.

Frankly, this isn’t how a major state agency should be run. The Human Services budget comprises approximately 40% of the state budget. If money is flying out the door as a result of fraud and the people running the department aren’t paying attention to what’s happening, then that’s a monstrous problem. It’s one thing if there’s fraud in one of the minor departments. It’s another when it’s a major part of the budget. That can’t happen.

Sen. Benson highlighted the fact that she chief-authored a bill that would’ve made the Inspector General’s Office a separate office. Republicans passed it in the Senate. According to Sen. Benson, the House DFL refused to move on it last session because the DFL is beholden to the public employees union that staff Human Services.

It’s also worth noting that the press covering the press availability tried their best to suggest that this wasn’t really a scandal, that it might just be 3 separate resignations that have nothing to do with the culture at Human Services. Frankly, it was pathetic watching them try to cover for the DFL.

This AP article all-but-officially says that U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will pick Al Franken’s replacement. If Gov. Dayton’s pick is approved by Sen. Schumer, then it’s a safe bet that candidate will be Sen. Schumer’s shill for the duration of their Senate career.

The article states that “Dayton’s initial inclination was to pick Smith, a longtime aide and his second-in-command since 2015, to serve as a placeholder until next year’s election, a Democratic official told The Associated Press. The official requested anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss private deliberations surrounding the appointment before Dayton’s announcement. The official said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has reached out to Dayton and pressured him to instead appoint someone who can use the opportunity as a running start for a 2018 campaign.”

Suddenly, Lt. Gov. Smith is interested in running for re-election if appointed. It essentially cuts Minnesotans out of the process. Shouldn’t Minnesotans, not a partisan New Yorker, pick Sen. Franken’s replacement? The people should have a say. Franken’s replacement shouldn’t be picked by Minnesota’s royal family, then rubberstamped by the people. Picking Lt. Gov. Flint-Smith, or anyone that will run for re-election, hints that we’re just rubberstamps.

This Strib article contains this wishful thinking:

Joe Davis, the executive director of the DFL-aligned Alliance for a Better Minnesota, said a second Senate race will further nationalize the Minnesota election, which can only help the DFL chain Republican candidates to a historically unpopular president. “It’s a chance to put not just one but two checks on Trump’s Washington,” Davis said, referring to the special election as well as DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s re-election. DFLers hope that anti-Trump fervor will trickle down the ballot to the governor’s race and legislative contests.

There’s a better chance that blue collar voters will get out to vote to nullify Gov. Dayton’s rubberstamp appointment. Then there’s this:

State Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Mary’s Point, said she is mulling the race and will make a decision early this week. Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, said she remains focused on a potential run for governor and has no interest in the U.S. Senate. State Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, said she is talking it over with family this weekend.

This isn’t a statement of preference. It’s just a statement that Karin Housley would be a fantastic candidate. She’s a skilled legislator. It doesn’t hurt that she’s married to NHL Hall of Famer Phil Housley. Her fundraising ability would be a positive, too. Michelle Benson would be an attractive candidate, too. She knows health care inside and out. She’s a reliable conservative, as is Sen. Housley.

We deserve better than Franken, who is described by Salena Zito as being prominent because “of his previous life.” Ms. Zito added that “there was a lot of noise, but according to research done by the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, his home state newspaper, his legislative career was weak. Of Franken’s 141 pieces of legislation (85 bills, 47 amendments, and nine resolutions) none became law.” Finally, there’s this truth:

Americans don’t just want members of Congress to be decent people, they also want them to actually do things that benefit them, their communities, and the country; what they don’t want is someone who solely uses their elected offices as a springboard to more power (it was the worst kept secret in Democratic circles that Franken was considering a run for president in 2020).

Parting question: is Tina Flint-Smith another reliable vote and political nobody? I remember when Minnesota’s senators were difference-makers.

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In this interview, incoming Chair of the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee, nailed it when she was asked by the AP reporter if there will be a special session. Sen. Benson replied “I am less hopeful today than I was even a couple of days ago. We’re just not hearing anything from the governor that indicates he’s interested in the bigger picture in health care. There needs to be some understanding from the governor’s office that he wants to change things going forward. If we get that, I think we go a long way to opening the door to a special session.”

I wrote this post to highlight Gov. Dayton’s unseriousness in fixing Minnesota’s health care system. It wasn’t that long ago that Minnesota had the best health care and health insurance systems in the United States. That isn’t true anymore. Rather than fixing the problems are having, Gov. Dayton has chosen to criticize Republicans, saying “We’re running out of time. Quit dilly-dallying and get to work, and decide whether you are going to support my proposal, which is ready to go, and is viable, or you don’t want to do it.”

First, Republicans have agreed that there needs to be a rebate system for this year to help people who don’t qualify for the federal subsidies. That’s the entirety of Gov. Dayton’s plan. Gov. Dayton’s plan doesn’t do anything to fix anything for the long-term. If that isn’t fixed, Minnesotans will be faced with a bigger crisis this time next year. This isn’t a matter of Republicans “dilly-dallying around.” It’s a matter of whether Gov. Dayton will stop pretending the ACA is a solid health care system. It isn’t.

Q: How much can the Legislature really do before the changes from the federal level become clear?
A: We have to put some solid things in place. I think we have to look at a reinsurance program (to help insurers pay for high-cost patients). How do we improve choice of competitiveness? I don’t know if we’ve already gone too far. Can the individual market recover?

Thanks to Minnesota’s reinsurance program, Minnesotans with pre-existing conditions could get health insurance at a reasonable price. It isn’t coincidental that health insurance premiums have skyrocketed since it was eliminated.

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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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Towards the end of the 2014 legislative session, the DFL quietly passed a $400,000,000 bailout of MNsure. Technically, the bailout was for MinnCare but MNsure caused MinnCare’s insolvency. Based on the information in this Pi-Press article, that bailout was just the tip of an iceberg. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Most of those enrolled through the exchange are on public subsidies. As of last week, nearly a quarter-million Minnesotans had enrolled. Of those, 88 percent, 218,615 out of a total of 249,369, are receiving a public subsidy.

That leaves 30,754 Minnesotans who purchased a plan on their own via MNsure.

The ratio of subsidized to “commercial” enrollees “needs a long hard look going forward,” said Julie Brunner, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans. Unless they “ramp up significantly,” she wonders if the low numbers on the commercial side will provide “the financial support that MNsure needs to have a balanced budget.”

That’s stunning information. Based on that information, MNsure isn’t sustainable financially. If MNsure needs a bailout, that means tax increases can’t be far behind. This is more bad news:

The system is preparing to absorb still more public enrollees. MNsure has delayed until August a major transition of public insurance beneficiaries to the system. About 800,000 Minnesotans will be renewing their current coverage.

MNsure CEO Scott Leitz told the editorial board earlier this month that the agency “wanted the system to be stable” to handle the influx.

That’s disturbing because MNsure isn’t stable:

During the assessment, 47 of the 73 sub-functions addressed were found either to be absent or not functioning as expected. Six of the 73 sub-functions could be considered for implementation post-open enrollment. The remaining 41 sub-functions need to be provided for the 2015 Open Enrollment either through changes/enhancements to the systems or through contingent means.

That’s what instability sounds like. Last fall, MNsure’s rollout was a disaster. This year’s open enrollment will be a bigger disaster than last year’s open enrollment. Thanks in part to that, the revenue shortfall will be greater this year than last year.

With MNsure stability being at least a year away, it’s likely that the shortfall for the next biennium will be huge. It’s difficult to see this turning out well for Minnesota taxpayers. In the end, though, these shortfalls will put pressure on the DFL Senate to resist changing MNsure.

It’s time for the DFL to accept the reality that it’s time to start over on health care reform. When a system is this disfunctional, this expensive and this unpopular, it’s time to start from scratch. Minnesota was a leader in health care. We should’ve learned from that. Instead, Gov. Dayton and the DFL legislature created this financial nightmare.

Sen. Michelle Benson might’ve put it best:

A key point, however, noted by the Pioneer Press’ Christopher Snowbeck: The report couldn’t say exactly where the uninsured found coverage, that is, whether insurance was obtained through public programs, private insurers available through MNsure or commercial plans sold outside the health exchange.

He noted pushback from legislative Republicans, including the contention of Sen. Michelle Benson of Ham Lake that, to the extent the reduction came from people enrolling in the state’s Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare insurance programs, the state “didn’t need MNsure at all.”

That’s spot on. Rather than weighing the options, Gov. Dayton, Sen. Bakk and Rep. Thissen let their ideology drive their votes. As a result, all Minnesotans will be hurt financially.

Let’s be clear about this. There aren’t enough rich people in Minnesota to raise taxes on…again. The DFL will have to raise taxes on the middle class if these MNsure deficits continue as expected.

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Former Minneota Gov. Al Quie has endorsed Marty Seifert’s bid to replace Gov. Mark Dayton. Quie was once barred from participating in GOP events, including the 2012 Republican National Convention. First, here’s Quie’s endorsement:

“I have been impressed by Seifert’s ability to connect with Minnesotans all over our state and his unique grasp of the issues that are important for our future,” said Quie. “We need a leader who is dedicated to justice and he will appoint judges and justices who respect the law and the Constitution, have radical integrity, and who will respect the litigants.”

Quie is urging his fellow Republicans to vote for Seifert in the upcoming August 12th primary in order to defeat Dayton.

“Just as I defeated a DFL incumbent to become governor, Marty Seifert has the ability to bring people together and win in November.”

The notion that Seifert “has the ability to bring people together” is only credible if you think he pushed some of his supporters into supporting someone other than him when he tried to prevent Republicans from endorsing a candidate for governor.

Further, a substantial number of Seifert supporters also support judicial elections. Quie is the face of retention elections, which opposes judicial elections.

The reality is that Quie hasn’t been relevant to Republican Party politics for almost a generation. He’s from the RINO wing of the Minnesota GOP. Here’s more on why Quie was disciplined:

MPR reports that delegates to the party’s state central committee meeting voted 59-55 Saturday to bar 18 Republicans from party activities for two years, including the 2012 Republican National Convention.

The list of those who supported Independence Party candidate Tom Horner includes former Govs. Arne Carlson and Al Quie, former U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger and donor George Pillsbury.

If Marty Seifert wants Quie’s endorsement, that’s his option. If Quie wants to endorse Seifert, that’s fine, too. The question is whether Quie’s support will have a positive impact on Republicans. I’m betting it won’t because most of the people who will vote in August’s primary don’t know who Quie is because he served before they were born. Here’s Seifert’s spin on Quie’s endorsement:

“Governor Quie has been universally praised for being a public servant willing to take risks, offering out-of-the-box ideas for education and judicial reforms,” said Seifert. “I am looking forward to hearing more of his advice on how to make Minnesota an even better place.”

Now that’s professional spin. Saying that Quie is “willing to take risks”, I suspect, is Seifert’s way of saying he’s supported former Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner’s tax increases and Horner’s candidacy. Nothing says ‘Let’s pull people together’ like getting endorsed by one of the erstwhile Republicans who cost Tom Emmer the election in 2010.

Compare that with State Sen. Michelle Benson endorsing Jeff Johnson, the endorsed GOP gubernatorial candidate. Sen. Benson is a talented legislator with impeccable conservative credentials and who’s very much relevant in Republican Party politics.

The latest KSTP-SurveyUSA poll showed Seifert trailing Jeff Johnson and Kurt Zellers by 10 points. There’s no reason to think the endorsement battle will help Seifert close that gap in any substantial way.

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