Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Letter from Sen. Ortman – 4-21-10



Dear Friends,


Over the last two weeks, some of the Senate's largest items that must be completed before Session ends have been put on hold. We have yet to see a health care finance omnibus bill; the Legislature is still waiting to hear how much money the state will be receiving from the federal government for health care purposes. That money could have a significant impact on what we are able to accomplish in the health care omnibus bill. Please see my newest article, No Gift, which addresses the Federal health care plan on my Senate InTouch webpage:


Additionally, we are waiting for the courts to rule on the lawsuits against the Governor's 2009 unallotments. If the courts rule against the Governor's cuts, the State will again be responsible for finding the appropriate funding for those projects.


Governor Signs Jobs Bill

Recently, the Governor signed a bill into law that would provide over $100 million in tax credits over the next three years for small businesses intended to promote jobs across Minnesota. Included in these credits the Angel Investor Tax Credit, a credit for the renovation of historic buildings, a CARZ credit added to the preexisting JOBZ credits. Unlike JOBZ, CARZ is available to qualifying motor vehicle assembly facilities anywhere in the state.


This bill represents a crucial step forward for Minnesota in terms of economic development initiatives, job creation, support for small businesses and entrepreneurs, and science & technology investments. The bill had strong bi-partisan support in the House and Senate. We can be proud of the fact that we had consensus in our State government on one of the most important goals for Minnesota during this difficult economy: new jobs.


From the District…

Recently, I had an opportunity to meet with a group of people from my district who work in the senior care industry. Providing adequate funding for the needs of our aging population has been a priority for me during my time in the State Senate. I asked this employee, "Charlie" (names have been changed to protect privacy) to share his story with me and the E-Update group. The narrative below was written by the Human Resources Director at a Senior Care Facility in my district. I am pleased that I had the opportunity to get to know "Charlie." I have also heard from many others who share Charlie's situation through e-mails and letters to my Senate office. I welcome the opportunity to share his story with you now, below.


Charlie (a Certified Nursing Assistant) works as a care attendant and activities assistant in our assisted living memory care program. He has been with this Senior Care Facility for over a year and loves his job. He is amazing with the residents and says that this is the most satisfying work he has ever done. He averages 82 hours per two week pay period and picks up additional shifts whenever they are available. Charlie is 50 years old and lives with Type 1 Diabetes. He makes $11.67/hour and is covered under our senior care facility's health insurance plan. He pays $237.00/month and the organization pays $355.80 on his behalf for his health coverage for a total cost of $593 each month. His deductible is $2,500.00. He has six prescriptions for his diabetes, depression, and asthma. At the current time, he fills his diabetes medication only when he is able and chooses not to test his blood sugar because he can't afford his testing supplies. His depression and asthma medicine have not been refilled for over 9 months. Charlie has a house payment of $1,024.00/month. Without even doing the math we can see that no matter how hard Charlie tries to be self sufficient he cannot make ends meet. Charlie came to my office last week and stated that he didn't know what to do. He has always taken care of himself and has never relied on public assistance. He is a proud man and doesn't want someone else to take care of him. However, because he can no longer afford his insurance and the cost of his medicine, he needs to make a choice between two really bad options. His first option would be to continue to work but ignore his medical needs by skipping his medication so he can continue to have a place to live and put food on the table. His second option is to reduce his hours enough so he reaches an income level that would qualify him for the state health plan. Even if he chooses his first option he will ultimately end up on some sort of public assistance, because his health will decline to the point where he is no longer able to work.


We cannot continue to cut reimbursement rates for nursing homes. The Governor has proposed cuts to budgets that fund nursing homes, but the legislature has consistently pushed back against those cuts. This year, the legislature will reject these cuts again. The Governor may suggest a budget, but ultimately it is the legislature that decides how funds are spent, and the legislature is not ready to cut these necessary funds.


Energy Independence


I came across an article that I'd like to share with you. It covers a U.S. Geological
Survey assessment for an oil reserve called the Bakken Formation. It lies under North Dakota, Montana, and the Rocky Mountains. The Bakken Formation, according to the new survey published 2 years ago, contains 3.0-4.3 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil. If you are interested in learning more about the Bakken Formation, please read more here:


Thank you for reading this week's E-Update! If you have thoughts or responses to any of these issues, including Charlie's story, I would welcome the opportunity to hear from you. I deeply appreciate your involvement and thank you again for your interest.



Julianne Ortman

State Senator

District 34