Senjem part of small group tasked with negotiating budget deal
Rochester Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem is part of a four-person group of lawmakers trying to hash out a budget deal in the final hours of the legislative session. The other members include two Democrats — Sen. Dick Cohen of St. Paul and Rep. Lyndon Carlson of Crystal. GOPers are represented by Senjem and state Rep. Mary Liz Holberg of Lakeville.
And while time is running out, Senjem remains confident that the group can negotiate a deal by the end of today. He said lawmakers are focused on a few key areas. First, they are trying to determine which of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's $2.7 billion in unallotment cuts lawmakers would be willing to pass. Second, they are trying to negotiate an agreement on health care. Democrats want the state to pay $188 million to expand its Medical Assistance program so that it can tap into $1.4 billion in federal money in the new health care law. The governor and fellow Republicans have voiced concerns about proposed surcharge on HMOs that would be used to pay the upfront costs.
But it looks like the early expansion of Medical Assistance proposal is facing steep opposition from some lawmakers. Despite Pawlenty previously saying he was open to the idea, GOP members of the Legislature say they are not on board with the expansion.
"There has been a lot of kickback from the House Republicans and my caucus as well," Senjem said.
Democrats are also pushing for a plan to payback schools if they go along with the governor's proposed $1.7 billion delay in payments to K-12 schools, which were part of his unallotments.
What about new revenue ideas? Senjem said so far he is not seeing any new revenue ideas that would be able to gain enough support. The Rochester lawmaker has always been a fan of allowing racinos — but "that isn't going to go anywhere."