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COL Pure power politics?

By Fran Bradley

The April 13 Post-Bulletin editorial about my job as chairman of the House Health Policy &; Finance Committee was inaccurate, misleading and uninformed. I am accused of playing "pure power politics" in assembling a health and human services spending bill, squelching the voice of the DFL minority members on the committee.

Nothing is further from the truth. The committee heard dozens of bills over the past few weeks in preparation of assembling an omnibus HHS finance bill. Over the period, the committee heard some 35 DFL-sponsored bills! In fact, the hearing mentioned in your editorial was specifically set up to share power and to listen to ideas for reform, reprioritization and alternative savings from both Democrats and Republicans. As was explained in advance, the proposals needed to result in savings that could be used to make alternative investments like providing rate increases for group homes.

Several Republican proposals were shared.

Unfortunately, the Democrat Health Committee members had no recommendations for reforms or savings. Instead, they presented two pages of additional spending totaling more that $200 million. When reminded about the purpose of the meeting, Rep. Barb Goodwin became emotional, made a number of surprisingly partisan attacks and then stormed out of the hearing. The fact is that Rep. Goodwin is the one who squelched bipartisan collaboration.

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Your newspaper readers would have been better served had you reported some of the facts. The omnibus bill we are working on spending $7.3 billion for the 2006-07 biennium -- some $50 million more than proposed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Remember, too, the governor's budget proposes to increase overall HHS spending by 15 percent! You might also have mentioned that I shared power by appointing Tom Huntley, a DFLer from Duluth, chair of the important Health Licensing Subcommittee.

With HHS costs skyrocketing, I don't disagree that committee members have been debating difficult decisions and making priorities to protect the most vulnerable. However, nowhere throughout this process was debate stifled, as the Post-Bulletin suggests. In setting priorities and building a bill, it's recognized that not all members will get what they want. That's true for all committees in both the House and Senate. But for the Post-Bulletin to characterize that process as "pure power politics" is a disservice.

Fran Bradley of Rochester represents District 29B in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

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