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Minnesota political news from an insider’s perspective.
The Mayo Clinic sent a letter to Gov. Tim Walz and key legislators this week with a warning that if legislation mandating nurse-staffing ratios at hospitals and clinics moves forward as written, they will cancel plans to expand the Mayo footprint in Minnesota.
Mayo also objected to a proposal that will build a powerful new government bureaucracy to set and enforce limits on the cost of health care at hospitals and clinics. American Experiment wrote about it here. Mayo’s business model attracting high-cost, high-risk patients from around the world will not score well in a one-size-fits-all government metric. The state should be celebrating this model, not punishing it.
Although addressed to Walz, the letter was really meant for the people of Minnesota. By the time a letter like this is sent, all private discussions and negotiations have failed. Mayo’s letter is more of an announcement to the public that Walz and the legislature are about to pass something that will have consequences for the delivery of health care in Minnesota. And consequences for future expansion plans in Rochester.
The head of the state nurses’ union, Mary Turner, reacted to the letter predictably, calling it “dirty politics” and declaring nurses will fight back: “If there’s one thing nurses know how to do, it’s mobilize, and organize, and fight back. Because we do it every day at the bedside.” (Do nurses mobilize and organize at the bedside?)
Rep. Tina Leibling, who represents the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, told The Reformer, “I don’t respond well to ultimatums no matter who they come from.” The Reformer originally broke the story by obtaining the letter from Mayo to Gov. Walz. Sen. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) also spoke out against Mayo’s position. Murphy’s job before she ran for the legislature? Executive Director of the state nurses’ union.
Follow the money
The nurses’ union has been fighting for nurse staffing ratio rules for years at the bargaining table and at the legislature. With Walz and the Democrats completely in charge at the Capitol, they can finally get it through the Senate. Compared to the teachers’ union, the nurses are getting a pretty good bargain for their dream legislation. The Minnesota Nurses Association contributed $70,000 to Democrats in the 2022 election and their national affiliate kicked in $10,000.
The bill, euphemistically titled the “Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act,” essentially gives union leaders the power to determine how many nurses will work on every shift. It’s in their self-interest to demand more nurses per patient, because that will lead to more nurses hired and more hours worked. It will also lead to higher costs for the rest of us and eventually fewer beds available or even fewer hospitals open for business.
While Democrats see this as a negotiating tactic from the Mayo Clinic, it’s really more of a statement about how they have to react in order to stay true to their mission. It’s business, not personal, as they said in The Godfather. Tim Walz is realizing there will be consequences to some of the radical legislation being passed this session.
Teacher union pension bailout
Speaking of unions, the teachers’ union was also working hard on behalf of their members last week, asking state income taxpayers to contribute $145 million to their pension plan. They are also asking for permission to move the retirement age for teachers from 66 to 64, which will cost their pension plan $60 million per year. The $145 million subsidy will cover the first two years, but there is no plan for once that runs out. Of course, anyone following the Minnesota legislature recently knows the union will be back in year three asking for continued funding for this “deficit” created in 2023.
Teachers work for local school districts and although their retirement plan is regulated by the legislature, it is funded by contributions from employers (school districts) and employees (teachers). Which begs the question: Why should state taxpayers bail out local teacher union pensions? The answer is political, not logical. It’s also been bipartisan over the years — Republicans have also voted to use state money to bail out local pensions. Maddening.
This week the Senate will pass a Paid Family Leave bill that raises taxes on every employee and employer in Minnesota to pay for a new benefit that very few people will be able to enjoy. It passed the House last week without an exemption for small businesses. Imagine a small business owner paying a new tax throughout the year and then trying to cover for employees when they take advantage of the new leave program. They won’t write letters to the governor about not expanding in Minnesota. They will just hire fewer employees or go out of business altogether.
On May 10, “school choice evangelist” Corey DeAngelis will be in Minnesota for an exclusive dinner, keynote, and panel discussion with our state’s most ardent supporters of educational freedom. Grab your tickets here!
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