Republicans and Democrats beat their swords into plowshares Monday as Gov. Mark Dayton ceremonially signed this year's health and human services budget measure.
In most years, negotiation over that particular budget bill nearly draws blood as Democrats insist Republican plans hurt the poor and needy and Republicans accuse Democrats of overspending and bulking up a bloated system.
Not this year.
"It's really an extraordinary accomplishment, especially in the context of the other difficulties we're had this session," said Gov. Mark Dayton. To applause, he said, "This is cooperative and this is bipartisan all the way."
None of the lawmakers or administration officials could recall a happier signing of a health and human services bill, ever. Republican Sen. David Hann said that the cooperation shows that bipartisan agreement is possible.
"We're glad to be here and be a part of something good," said Hann, the chairman of the health and human services committee.
The measure restores funding or delays cuts to funding for millions of dollars of programs slashed last year as part of the deficit-fixing budget. The restoration includes $4.7 million for the Emergency Medical Assistance program, which helps those who need dialysis and cancer treatment, and delays a $5.9 million cut to personal care attendants, who help people with disabilities with basic daily needs.
It also delays a rate cut to long-term care facilities, which means paying out an additional $20.6 million and could give the state time to negotiate a deal with the federal government to make the cut unneeded.
Democrats and Republicans also praised the 'reforms' enacted in the new law. Under the law, the state will now spend $1.6 million to prevent welfare fraud, a top priority for Republicans, and spend $1.2 million on audits of health insurance spending, which may fix a problem that has brought Minnesota's lack of transparency all the way to the halls of congress.
Even after the new spending authorized for health and human services, the state still has about $25 million left on the bottom line from savings on health plan spending that could be used for other budget issues this year.