The total number goes beyond salary

Before raising the compensation of state legislators, there should be consideration of “total compensation.” It is far more than $31,140 per year. Per diems of $66 for House members and $86 for Senate members are available just for the claiming — no receipts, no documentation at all.

They can be claimed seven days a week during the regular session. There is also state-paid health insurance, year-round. There is a 6 percent state pension contribution. During the regular session, per diem payments count toward pension benefits. Retired legislators can go on and off the state health insurance plan, to enhance coverage when needed and reduce premium payments when not needed, something not allowed for other retirees in the plan.

Before increasing compensation, let’s have an open, honest appraisal of what it is currently, and not just the salary component.

Chester Rorvig, St. Cloud

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We see the problem; what’s the response?

I welcomed the thoughtful editorial “On autopilot, at taxpayers’ expense” (March 11). It makes a number of disturbing points about how the state’s Medicaid program has been conducted for the past 10 years, but there are still a couple of fundamental questions unasked.

Eight of those years were under a Republican administration, and the last two have been under a DFL administration, yet there have been no significant changes. It has taken public outcry and a federal lawsuit to focus attention on the abuses of the health insurance companies.

Are not both major parties being held hostage by a powerful private industry? Do we not need to challenge the two-party system and the money poured into elections to achieve honest regulation?

Also unquestioned is the assumption that “managed care” lowers costs. The experience of the last couple of decades shows exactly the reverse. Yet we continue to accept a system of payment, otherwise known as “capitation,” that veils the actual charge for medical services and assumes that health “outcomes” can be weighed, measured and graded like any other commodity.

Rhoda R. Gilman, St. Paul

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The tone of complacency in the editorial was telling. The use of the elegant phrase “state officials also inexplicably failed to exercise their authority” indicates to me apathy about expecting officials to take responsibility to recover the millions of taxpayer dollars held by Minnesota HMOs.

Ho-hum, state officials should let the bygones of millions of taxpayer money be bygones … there’s just no use in demanding that fiscally conservative Democrats do their jobs … righting the wrong by retrieving the funds is way too much to expect. The whole Medicaid affair was merely years of shoddy management and poor bookkeeping. No need to rescue that missing treasure for the benefit of Minnesotans here and now.

Diane J. Peterson, White Bear Lake

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Feral Cats

Is it better to trap, spay/neuter, release?

Is it possible to educate someone to the level of a doctorate in the sciences, who has no understanding of the most basic principles of ecology and environmental biology? I think so. Every veterinarian who participates in a catch, neuter and release program of feral cats is testament of such. Feral cats, are invasive, subsidized predators, who wreck ecological havoc across America (“Catch and release? Minneapolis rethinks stray cat approach,” March 8).

No one would ever consider implementing such a program with feral dogs, because of the danger they’d represent to the human population. And yet there is no empathy toward the predatory destruction which surrounds free roaming cats. There is only one solution: Keep your cats inside.

Mark Palas, St. Paul

• • •

I applaud Minneapolis City Council Member Cam Gordon for introducing this issue. St. Paul shows a statistically relevant decrease in the feral cat population using a spay/neuter approach. It is right to target irresponsible pet owners, but too often neighborhoods are presented with a fait accompli in the form of unwanted kittens who are too terrified of people to be socialized as pets.

I have seen hawks fly birds into my windows for an easy meal, and owls have left rabbit remains in my back yard. So cats are not the only threat to wildlife, and cats who are fed are less likely to seek birds for a meal. I hope this endeavor succeeds as a model for other communities. As communities, we need to find solutions to living with animals besides just killing the ones we find undesirable.

Christine Olson, Golden Valley

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Admire them with a proper dose of respect

One need only to read the headline “Investigators look into why lion killed a fearless lover of big cats” (March 8) to answer the question it poses. Two words explain — “fearless” and “lion.” I grieve for the family of the woman who died, and I applaud her energy and zeal for the welfare of these magnificent creatures. How we wish she had channeled her love and talents to a safer method of conservation of the species in its own habitat.

Big cats kill. It is that simple. They cannot be domesticated and should not be caged, nor used as entertainment for humans. They are meant to be in the wild. They don’t want us around, except as food. Let us all learn to love, but respect, these fellow inhabitants of our planet.

Before you interact with an animal, or go to a circus, animal park or rodeo, ask yourself: “Did this animal volunteer?”

Pamela Haase, Rochester