After a weekend of failed negotiations with the governor’s office, state House DFLers on Monday failed to override a veto of legislation that would have restored a state health care program for some of the state’s poorest and sickest residents.
The party-line 86-47 vote came after months of intense lobbying from nurses, hospitals and religious leaders urging lawmakers to resurrect General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) before it expires April 1. The state Senate overwhelmingly agreed to override the governor’s veto last week.
DFLers pushed forward with the vote even as Republicans vowed to uphold the governor’s veto. Democrats needed three Republicans for the two-thirds majority needed to undue Pawlenty’s veto — they got none, even though 38 GOP members voted for the original bill.
Less than two weeks ago, both houses approved legislation to extend the program for 16 months. Pawlenty vetoed it, in part because he said it would inappropriately spend $170 million as the state faces a $1.2 billion shortfall.
Even after the vote, DFLers and Republicans plan to return to the bargaining table to see if there’s a better option for the 32,000 people on GAMC.
Meanwhile, the state will begin enrolling participants in GAMC into MinnesotaCare, which requires participants to jump through more hoops and offers less hospital coverage.
To help erase part of a multibillion-dollar deficit last year, Pawlenty ended funding for GAMC, which covers single adults who earn less than $8,000 a year and who are generally ineligible for Medicaid. Many on the program are homeless, mentally ill or drug-addicted. Some are veterans struggling with life after war.
Before the vote, about 15 House Republicans held a news conference urging Democrats not to push for an override and let negotiations take their course.
“Rather than go through these political moves, why not just put it on pause?” asked House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove.
But Democrats said they’ve been working on a plan to restore GAMC for months and that Republicans only joined the debate at the last minute, as the clock winds down for people on the program.
DFLers said their plan is a better deal, costing the state an average of $457 per person per month rather than $937 per person per month under Pawlenty’s plan.
The DFL plan, however, could ultimately cost the state more because far more people would be covered.