GAMC REMEDY

Cost saving should be a model for U.S. reform

Over the last several months, numerous letters from readers and opinions from staff writers have been featured in the Star Tribune concerning the governor's intention to cancel the General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) program. Most of these were highly critical of Gov. Tim Pawlenty and failed to mention that under his plan those people currently participating in the GAMC program would have been transferred to Minnesota Care, another health care program for low-income people. One was left with the impression that the people in the GAMC program would be left to fend for themselves.

Now it turns out that a deal has been negotiated whereby GAMC will survive in a somewhat reduced state of funding. Hospitals that treat GAMC patients will get a fixed amount of money each year, and it will be up to them to manage the care for these patients in an efficient manner. It seems apparent that this is exactly what the governor intended all along. An out-of-control, wasteful program has been brought under control. This should become the model for national health care reform.

ROBERT SULLENTROP, MINNEAPOLIS

dirty air

Recent pollution alerts point to policy issues

The Star Tribune recently reported that air pollution is reaching unhealthy levels in Minnesota ("Nice weather creates nasty air,'' Feb.27).

We can do better.

Our nation has the power to combat air pollution, and in order to do so the Senate must act. By passing a comprehensive climate and clean-energy bill that combats air pollution, the clean economy could be well on its way. A comprehensive climate bill would also create thousands of clean-energy jobs. By manufacturing wind turbines and solar panels, America could become a leader in clean-energy industries again. Minnesotans are ready for action on clean energy and climate. The Senate should pass a comprehensive climate and clean energy jobs bill this spring.

AMBER LANE, MINNEAPOLIS

political courts

The real problem is judicial activism

The Sunday commentaries on judicial elections provided two perspectives that both missed the point ("It's a judgment call,'' March 7). The problem is not politics in judicial campaigns -- it's politics in the judiciary. As long as judicial activists try to dictate social policy and impose their will where democratic institutions will not, politics needs to be part of the judiciary. The better solution is to prevent judicial activism. Once courts return to their appropriate role of deciding the merits of the disputes before them, the interest in judicial elections will go away.

BOB GUST, BLOOMINGTON

revenue proposal

Life is tough enough without another tax

At a time of high unemployment, financial hardship and crushing tax proposals by the federal government, the Minnesota Senate taxes chairman, DFLer Tom Bakk, has the audacity to propose a tax to deny every man, woman and child the inalienable right to acquire that most cherished article of clothing, a new pair of underwear ("Is it time to tax clothing sales,'' March 5). Have you no decency, sir?

TERRENCE M. FITZGERALD, HOPKINS

predictable prices

CenterPoint customers paid agreed-upon costs

I am writing to clarify several statements published in the story about CenterPoint Energy's No Surprise Bill Program ("Utilities get to keep $33M in overcharges,'' Feb. 27).

The program provided customers with predictability and price certainty. It was voluntary and offered to give customers an additional choice in how to manage their natural gas bills. Participating customers received multiple pieces of material detailing program terms, including that customer bills would be fixed for 12 months with no year-end balance to carry forward, regardless of changes in weather or gas prices. These materials clearly stated that "you could pay more or less under the No Surprise Bill Program than you would with other billing options."

Customers were also given information on historical weather and natural gas prices. While the story referred to customer "overcharges" that CenterPoint Energy gets to keep, that is simply not the case. We only charged customers for the amount that was quoted to serve them under the program and that they agreed to pay. Our respect for our customers, regulators and the communities in which we serve demands that we are ethical in our business practices. That includes transparency with the services and programs offered to our customers.

DAVID BAKER, REGIONAL VICE PRESIDENT, CENTERPOINT ENERGY, Minneapolis

PRIORITIES 101

U should be focusing on urban redevelopment

Kudos for the editorial expressing disappointment that the University of Minnesota is planning another exurban development rather than focusing on the more urgent need for redevelopment and densification of existing urban areas ("Key to U housing: Location, location,'' March 5). Rapid edge growth means loss of productive farmland and natural areas, and it costs us all in terms of transportation, water, wastewater and other expensive infrastructure.

LES EVERETT, AGRONOMIST, ST. PAUL