A (Somewhat) Smaller Budget Hole
Minnesota received some positive news about the budget earlier this week, as Minnesota Management and Budget announced that the budget deficit has shrunk from earlier forecasts. While still enormous in terms of both dollars and as a percentage of the total budget, the new deficit projected at $5.03 billion is much better than the earlier $6.2 billion projection. With the news, Governor Dayton updated his budget proposal, and in doing so removed his earlier proposal to reduce MinnesotaCare eligibility.
Tobacco Issue Move Forward
A Senate and House author stepped forward to close the “little cigar” loophole. In a quirk of the tax code, “little cigars” that are nearly indistinguishable from cigarettes are taxed and regulated at a far lower level than cigarettes. These products seem custom-made for youth, costing less than half of the price of a pack of cigarettes and coming in flavors such as peach and grape. The proposal would treat these products at the same level as cigarettes.
Provider Tax Gets Attention
During a discussion about granting an exemption to the provider tax, members of the House HHS Finance Committee engaged in an extensive discussion about the “provider tax.” Members from across the aisle noted the tax’s inherent unfairness to both patients and providers. Legislation is expected to soon be introduced that would lower the provider tax as surplus funds in the Health Care Access Fund rose.