Don Heinzman: Considering possibilities of the new year
So, what can we look for in 2017 in the Twin Cities metro area and the state?
Many Minnesotans are on the Donald Trump bandwagon as evidenced by the surprisingly close vote in the presidential election. Legislators at all levels will try to figure out why Minnesotans are so upset and divided in a state that enjoys a state surplus and low unemployment.
Republicans took over the state House and the Senate, and that portends a contentious 2017 Minnesota legislative session.
A lot will depend on the policies and decisions of the new Trump administration, since certain governmental aids are vital to the state’s interests.
Of critical importance will be the federal aid to health care through the Affordable Care Act. It has provided record health insurance to Minnesotans and more health care by expanding eligibility for Medicaid.
If Obamacare is repealed, which won’t happen overnight, MNsure insurers will not be able to offer tax credits to reduce health insurance premiums.
A Republican-dominated Minnesota Legislature will aim to either eliminate MNsure or reduce its power, going against the governor who favors repairing but not eliminating it.
Lost in the debate over the merits of MNsure is the fact that health insurance companies are increasing rates to keep up with the rising costs of private health care providers. Those costs will continue to rise next year.
The state’s costly human resource expenses will likely increase, primarily to address health care for the growing number of elderly who are living longer. There is hope a Republican Legislature will continue to see the importance of this department.
This legislative session may be testy, as Gov. Mark Dayton battles with feisty Republicans who are anxious to unravel some of Dayton’s initiatives, particularly on health care and how to spend the budget surplus. Certainly the two sides will do something to fund fixing roads and bridges.
Because of the political battle between Republicans and the governor, Dayton may not get his proposed expansion of a prekindergarten program, even though research is clear on how this program benefits kids who can learn at an earlier age.
There will be changes in how prisoners are treated in the state’s prisons, as exposed by the media. Likewise, there will be increased funding so patients have better treatment in the state’s mental health hospitals.
Look for some wrangling over the Metropolitan Council’s powers and the controversial metro transportation tax; and with a Republican-controlled Legislature, those powers, particularly how the council is appointed, could be changed. The council, however, has stood the test of time and there is no public clamor to change it.
Looking into the 2017 crystal ball, if the public settles down it will discover that the country is not going to pieces. This year could be better than it may first appear.
Don Heinzman is a columnist for ECM Publishers.