Gov. Mark Dayton accused state Sen. David Hann of taking unilateral action to block $25 million in federal grants aimed at sick, disabled and elderly Minnesotans.
"I think it's disgraceful for anyone to play election politics with people's lives,'' Dayton said Tuesday.
Hann, R-Eden Prairie, who is chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said he was merely exercising legislative oversight. He said Dayton's comments were "irrational."
Dayton said Hann, as a member of the Legislative Advisory Commission, which reviews expenditures and grants between Legislative sessions, asked for "further review" of $25 million in federal funds granted to the state over a five-year period.
Among the services in line to be funded were electronic diagnosis reporting for children with cancer and their families; assistance to populations with chronic diseases to reduce their tobacco use and obesity; home-based services for aging veterans; and lower-cost alternatives for people with Alzheimer's disease.
The effect of Hann's letter is to hold up and possibly jeopardize the grants, Dayton said. He said he would resubmit the request under an "urgency" clause to get around Hann's objections.
Dayton called Hann's action an "outrageous abuse of an individual legislator's power.'' He said in the decade that such authority has existed, he knows of no other case where a legislator took such action.
It was not clear that the funds would be stopped or merely delayed from reaching the state. The commissioners of health and human services said the programs to be funded do not create additional expenses or commitments for the state.
Hann put the total value of the grants at $60 million over three years, and said he wants to subject them to further review because the information provided to the Legislature has been vague. He said he is acting within the law and was assured by state officials that his action would affect no direct services to individuals.
He said Dayton's "personal attack" was troubling. "The governor should retract the comments and apologize,'' Hann said, and defended the Legislature's prerogative to scrutinize such grants.