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Letter: Legislators need to negotiate

In the midst of the government shutdown and constant back-and-forth between "opposing sides," one thing is clear: we cannot keep doing things the same way. In my work as Chair of the Health and Human Services Finance Chair and as negotiator with the Governor Dayton administration, another thing is also clear: we all want what is best for Minnesota; we simply disagree on how to get there.

In my area, health and human services, I believe that "what is best for Minnesota" is an affordable and accessible system that funds core services and is sustainable for the long term. I think the Governor and Commissioner Jesson share the same sentiment. With spending growth of over 100 percent in the last decade, the state's HHS system is on an untenable trajectory. Some of this growth is due to demographic factors we cannot change. That is why the legislature's budget increases HHS spending $500 million above 2010-11 levels. But some of this spending growth we can change. Good leadership also involves harnessing what we can control and leveraging opportunities for reform.

Our budget proposals include innovations to make the health care system more efficient, patient-centered and flexible. We promote policies that like care coordination and rewarding healthy outcomes so that we can deliver the right care, at the right time--and at the right cost. As negotiations with the Governor and his administration continue, I hope we can move forward with the ideas we agree on and reach consensus on what is best for Minnesota. Minnesota did not need this government shutdown--least of all the vulnerable citizens who depend on our state for care. But Minnesota also does not need higher taxes during a fragile economy, and cannot have a system destined for deficits.

The reality of the situation is the need for negotiation. While legislators from the "opposing" party are having public meetings criticizing proposals, I feel it is more productive to sit down and create workable bipartisan solutions that will stand the test of time. Make no mistake; facing a $5 billion budget deficit is not an easy challenge to solve. But it is a challenge we must overcome, and our state will be stronger for it. I will continue to work in my area of responsibility with hospitals, counties, providers, managed care plans and the community as a whole to develop a budget that both makes our system sustainable and preserves care for the people who need it.


Jim Abeler

Chair, House Health and Human Services Finance Committee