With questions about the state's health exchange and Republican campaign ads swirling, Gov. Mark Dayton dashed from a Thursday afternoon event about housing without taking questions from the waiting press.
Dayton's decision to leave the event through a side door with his staff was unexpected. His staff had indicated he would answer questions from reporters.
It was also unusual. The DFL governor generally makes himself available to the media.
Dayton, who is up for re-election in 12 days, made remarks at the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Housing Awards announcement in St. Paul, listened to comments from two lawmakers and then, about 25 minutes in to the event got up to leave.
His spokesman, Matt Swenson, said the governor said as he left that he would not take questions from the press. Reporters who followed him out of the side door he exited saw his state vehicle exit the building's rear parking lot.
On Thursday, the Star Tribune reported that the Dayton administration had sought lower rates from an insurer that signed up to provide health insurance through MNsure, the state's health exchange. That insurer, PreferredOne, dropped out of the exchange this year.
Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson said Dayton should have stayed to answer questions about that.
"That’s part of the job of the governor whether it is him, me or someone else," Johnson said. He suggested the Dayton administration is panicking over the recent MNsure news.
He pledged that if he were governor, he would not avoid reporters.
"I will never unexpectedly run away from you," he said.
Also Thursday, the Minnesota Republican Party decided to delete the photo of a young boy who died from abuse in a television commercial trashing Dayton. That decision came after pressure from the boy's grandmother.
Thursday afternoon Dayton appeared at a campaign event with former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton. He was also slated to appear at a fundraiser with the former first lady in the evening.
Photo: The governor's caravan driving away from Thursday's housing event. Source: David Joles, Star Tribune.
AFL-CIO leaders on Tuesday decried what they say is Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson’s opposition to increasing Minnesota’s minimum wage.
Legislation passed last session that increased the minimum wage from $6.15 per hour to $8 for large employers. By 2016 it will reach $9.50. Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner, has said he would not repeal the current minimum wage increases, but would not support inflationary increases beyond that, arguing that raising the wage could harm small businesses. It’s a claim history has proven is untrue, said AFL-CIO president Shar Knutson (pictured at podium) said at a news conference.
“When we the minimum wage has increased before, the world didn’t stop and businesses kept on running, and they didn’t lose many people because you have to have a certain workforce,” Knutson said. “You can say that, but that doesn’t mean it’s what’s going to happen.”
Johnson is challenging DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. Dayton’s campaign, along with Unions and other Democratic-leaning groups have long bashed Johnson for his opposition to the minimum wage increase.
The AFL-CIO, a state labor federation made up of more than 1,000 affiliate unions representing more than 300,000 members, is latest to follow suit.
Darcy Landau, a wheelchair agent for Delta passengers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, who serves senior citizens and people with disabilities, said he received his first raise in more than five years in August after the legislation passed.
“Despite Delta’s record profits of over $2.7 billion last year, and the fact that our CEO saw his pay go up over 50 percent to over $14 million per year, workers like me who are subcontracted by Delta still only make $8 per hour,” said Landau (pictured at middle.) “It’s a disgrace that there are hundreds of workers at the airport who make miserable wages with no chance of affordable healthcare with no advancement in sight.”
“Does Mr. Johnson realize the pain he would cause people like me and workers all across the state?” he said. “Too many families are struggling, working two or three jobs and too many people are barely able to survive even though they work for corporations with record profits. Does Mr. Johnson think this is fair? Does he have any clue what it’s like to work for minimum wage?”
In a response, Johnson campaign spokesman Jeff Bakken said the attacks are evidence of union loyalties toward Dayton.
"Mark Dayton's incompetence and paybacks to his union boss campaign contributors are hurting middle-class Minnesotans.” He said in a statement. “Under Dayton, our state is dead last in private sector job growth in the Midwest and 41st worst in the nation. With this record, it's no wonder that the rich special interest groups who own Dayton are on the attack. Jeff Johnson will not cut the minimum wage, and with Jeff leading our state, Minnesota will not be dead last in the Midwest in private sector job growth."
U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden on Friday laid out a proposal to do away with the Affordable Care Act in favor of optional state exchanges with the opportunity to buy insurance across borders.
The proposal is part of a six-page detailed outline by McFadden, a Republican businessman who is challenging U.S. Sen. Al Franken. McFadden has long advocated for repealing the ACA.
“I fundamentally believe that healthcare should not be done at the federal level, but should be state-based and market-centered,” McFadden told reporters Friday. “I think if it continues to be run and administered at the federal level, it will ultimately look like the (Veterans Administration) and that’s not acceptable and that’s not what Minnesotans want.”
McFadden’s proposed system includes a six-point plan to lower costs by expanding Health Savings Accounts, increasing price transparency for medical procedures, allow the pooling of small businesses to procure the same benefits as larger corporations, allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines, and reforming both healthcare tax laws and the tort system.
McFadden said that individual states should be able to decide whether they want to issue individual mandates to purchase health insurance.
“If Minnesota wants to have a mandate or Massachusetts wants to have a mandate, then that’s their decision.” He said. “When I say that states are laboratories for experiments, I want them to experiment. You run into a fundamental problem with a program that’s this large, and covers 1/6th of the economy.”
McFadden maintained that last week’s pullout of PreferredOne, the chief provider in MNsure, is not the fault of the state’s health care exchange, is proof that large patient pools are not effective.
"I'm here to tell you today these pools under Obamacare are not working." he said. "When PreferredOne, who is the 60 percent low-cost provider, comes in and says 'We can't make money,' that's not MNsure, the exchange's fault. What it is, is that the system can't make money."
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden said the withdrawal of the largest insurer from MNsure, the state’s health care exchange, is evidence of the Affordable Care Act’s failure, blaming President Obama and his opponent, Sen. Al Franken, for enacting what he called a broken system.
PreferredOne was the top-selling insurer on MNsure, but its CEO said they’d be pulling out of the exchange, saying their participation was “not sustainable.” PreferredOne insured six out of 10 MNsure consumers who now will have to seek out other providers and may result in higher healthcare premiums.
“I’m a businessman, and as a businessman I know that when someone provides 60 percent of the market and is the low-cost provider drops out of the program, you’re going to see a significant increase in premiums. This doesn’t work.” McFadden said, pointing to a chart from the Hoover Institution that illustrated the tangle of functions that make up the ACA. “I’m very disappointed in President Obama and Sen. Franken because this program has been based on lies.”
The biggest of all, he said, is that Obama care decreased the cost of insurance in the country. PreferredOne’s withdrawal is proof of that, he argued. However, he said he does not believe the insurance company should be held responsible for leaving MNsure. He remained focused on a system he said could be fixed by a “state-based, market-based, patient-centered” system that allows consumers to buy their insurance across state lines.
Franken spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff said that because of the ACA, 95 percent of Minnesotans are now insured, while the state’s uninsured rate has been halved.
“Mike McFadden would repeal the health law and take us back to a time when women were charged more for health coverage simply because they were women, people with preexisting conditions were denied coverage, half the bankruptcies in this country were connected with health care emergencies and young adults couldn't get covered under their parents' plan,” she said in a statement. “Once again, Mike McFadden has proven that he would rather jump at the opportunity to play politics than actually solve problems.”
McFadden made his statements on the day the Franken campaign launched another ad claiming McFadden’s investment firm, Lazard Middle Market, was involved in a merger that moved an American pharmaceutical company to Ireland to avoid paying U.S. taxes.
McFadden called the ad “patently false,” saying his firm did not represent the company that made the inversion, and that Franken praised a similar move by Medtronic to new headquarters in Ireland. However, while Franken praised the move as a potential job-creator, he also said the it "needs careful scrutiny."
McFadden said he said companies leave the country because they lack the tax incentives to stay.
“What this is evidence of is you have a president and a Democratic senator and a Democratic Senate that don’t understand tax policy and haven’t done anything over the last six years to make the United States have a competitive tax climate.” he said.
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Amy Klobuchar is heading to Iowa to headline Iowa's Jefferson Jackson dinner -- an annual fundraising gathering for Democrats.
Klobuchar is no stranger to the state crucial to presidential hopefuls. She frequently darts down there for fundraisers and was there last month campaigning for Rep. Bruce Braley, a U.S. Senate candidate.
Klobuchar aide Justin Buoen said in a statement, “Minnesota and Iowa have a lot in common--from our strong farm economies to our shared belief in education for all. With her work on the farm bill and middle class issues, Sen. Klobuchar is a great choice for the Iowa Democratic dinner.“
Iowa Democratic party chair Scott Brennan said in a release, according to the Des Moines Register: "We invited Sen. Klobuchar because she's a great speaker and a strong advocate for our candidates and we're pleased she's joining us to support our Iowa Democrats at this year's Jefferson Jackson Dinner."
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