ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Mark Dayton accused a Republican state senator on Tuesday of putting the state at risk of losing $25 million in federal health care grants by holding up their approval in order to score political points.
Sen. David Hann defended his decision to request a legislative review of how the state plans to allocate the money, saying he was simply fulfilling his duty as the chairman of the Senate’s health and human services committee and member of the Legislative Advisory Committee to demand accountability in the spending of taxpayer money. The advisory committee signs off on the receipt of some federal grants.
The eight grants in question would go toward initiatives aimed at furthering the use of preventive medicine. Among them are a research project aimed at presenting treatment options to the parents of children with cancer more rapidly after the initial diagnosis; a program to help Alzheimer’s patients stay in their homes; and the development of home and community-care options for aging veterans.
“We’re making an appeal for common sense and social justice to prevail,” Dayton said during a news conference in his office. He called Hann’s actions “unconscionable” and suggested the senator was partly motivated by politics; Hann has been a vocal and consistent critic of President Obama’s federal healthcare legislation.
The spat may end up having few consequences, as Dayton said his administration would start a process that could within a matter of weeks allow the governor to overrule Hann’s objections and accept the grants anyway. But Dayton and several of his cabinet secretaries said competition for such grants can be intense and that even a brief period of uncertainty at the state level could cause the federal agencies to reconsider their decision and give other states the chance to vie for money currently tagged for Minnesota.
“If we are not able to start spending the dollars, these grants could go elsewhere and Minnesota will be the lesser for it,” said Ed Ehlinger, the state health commissioner.
Hann said he was “troubled by the governor’s hostile personal attacks on me.” He said he had no plans to drop his request for legislative review, and that he hopes to convene a hearing of his committee in the near future and would seek more details from the Dayton administration about how the grant money would be used. Specifically, he said he was concerned that too much of the money would fund administrative and salary costs rather than go directly to research or direct care.
“I think the fundamental question should be, is this a good use of money? That’s all I’m trying to find out,” Hann said. He said he wasn’t confident that the federal legislative process already provided the scrutiny he’s demanding.
“Minnesotans pay federal taxes, too,” he said.
Hann said he was not bothered by the prospect that the money could end up going to programs in other states. He said in previous meetings, several officials from the Dayton administration reassured him that, even if the state failed to enact the grant programs, it would not result in cessation of direct services to anyone.
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