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Dayton plots big budget with public health insurance option

Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday proposed massive expansions to education options, health insurance offerings and more this year.

Major portions of Dayton’s wish list will be whittled down or erased entirely by Republicans who control the Legislature. Republicans say they’ll push for lower spending and to put more of a $1.4 billion budget surplus toward tax relief. The governor’s nearly $46 billion proposed budget was largely overshadowed by his collapse during Monday night’s State of the State address and his announcement Tuesday that he was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Here’s a look at some of Dayton’s ideas:

By the numbers

Dayton’s proposed budget clocks in at $45.8 billion, a roughly 10 percent increase from the state’s current budget. His first offer kicks off the push-and-pull with the Legislature as they try to set the next two-year budget.

Much of the new money would go toward education, with $75 million set aside to expand a new preschool program to more schools and an additional $371 million to increase the state’s per-pupil funding formula by 2 percent in each of the next two years. Republican legislative leaders said there were things to like in the governor’s proposal but said they were dismayed by the topline number.

“Do I think 10 percent is too much? Yes,” Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt said. “I probably think 5 percent is too much.”

The budget work won’t begin in earnest until after lawmakers get a final update on the state’s financial position in late February. The Legislature has to pass a new budget by late May.

Health insurance

Dayton’s announcement of his most dramatic proposal was derailed by his collapse Monday evening.

His prepared remarks for the State of the State, which he finished out Tuesday, laid out his plan to create a public health insurance option by allowing every Minnesota resident to purchase MinnesotaCare, one of the state-sponsored programs for low-income families.

If passed, residents could start buying state-negotiated plans in 2018. State officials say it wouldn’t require ongoing state funding, but would need $12 million in startup costs. They estimate it would double MinnesotaCare enrollment to more than 200,000. Dayton pitched it as an answer to the skyrocketing costs and instability for shoppers who buy coverage on their own.

“Why would we deny our citizens that chance to get a better deal?” Dayton said.

It would be the first so-called public option in the country, and would require federal approval even as President Donald Trump’s administration looks to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Some top Republicans called Dayton’s idea a non-starter.

“Starting another potential government program at that time doesn’t seem like a great idea,” Peppin quote.

Rehash

Dayton’s proposal will bring familiar debates back to the Minnesota Legislature.

Lawmakers are well-versed in Dayton’s preschool initiative, having approved a slimmed-down version that put out $25 million for schools in impoverished districts to set up early education programs. Dayton urged lawmakers that more funding was needed to help thousands more of Minnesota’s youngest learners.

Also, he’s reviving his push for a gasoline tax — another non-starter for Republicans, who say it’s unnecessary — to fund a major bridge and road repair effort. His proposal calls for a per-gallon tax increase of 10 cents would help improve infrastructure across the state.

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