Cut waste, find reforms before asking for more

From: Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, District 18B
This session, Governor Dayton and Democrats in the legislature are demanding billions of dollars in new taxes to fix our $627 million budget shortfall. They insist that raising revenues is the only way to fix our budget, putting forth a budget with minimal reforms and cuts.
The governor’s initial plan, for instance asked for $22 dollars in new taxes for every $1 in cuts. Hardly a balanced approach. It’s my belief that before we ask hardworking Minnesotans for even one more dollar in tax increases, that we ensure our government programs are devoid of waste and running as efficiently as possible.
Last month, the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) issued a report faulting the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) for failing to check the eligibility of participants in a number of public assistance programs that provide medical, cash, and food benefit, to low-income citizens.
Under state and federal law, agencies are required to verify income levels for participants in the various public assistance programs. The OLA report cited the MinnesotaCare insurance program as having failed to adequately verify the income level of participants.
In addition, despite federal requirements, DHS failed to cross-check and address discrepancies in reported income levels with other government data for the Medical Assistance program, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance food-stamp program.
In February, I received a memo from DHS Inspector General Jerry Kerber that cited just five cases of fraud and abuse that resulted in $2,762,197 in overpayments from the government. These fraud and abuse investigations were the result of anti-fraud measures instituted by the Republican-lead legislature in 2012.
If anything, we should be increasing funding to the departments that are tasked with finding and fighting fraud and abuse to help clean up these government programs. I believe these examples should be a wake-up call to Democrats in the legislature.
We don’t need to raise taxes to address our budget gap. We need to be examining our government programs from top to bottom, ensuring that we find every dollar of cost savings possible, and that our programs are free of waste, fraud, and abuse.
I am concerned that these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. These are your tax dollars at work – I believe your government owes it to you to ensure that those dollars are being spent responsibly and efficiently. You deserve nothing less.

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