Thursday, May 31, 2007

Time out for a word on that veto

Today we had an afternoon meeting scheduled with a group of independent Yemeni journalists who were going to talk to us about the political situation in Yemen. Unfortunately (on many levels), an explosion went off north of Sana'a, where we are staying, and they all went to cover that instead. While the rest of Sana'a went about its day, and our interpreter from Beirut, Lebanon just shrugged her shoulders, I had the chance to catch up on news from St. Paul.

I was very disappointed to learn that Governor Tim Pawlenty vetoed the statewide health insurance pool bill for school employees (SWHI). The rising cost of providing health insurance must be addressed and our statewide union has been the only group to attempt that. Officials opposed to the SWHI bill, including Gov. Pawlenty, had over 4 years to offer an alternative. Instead, the Governor's only response during that time was to make access to affordable health insurance even harder by kicking Minnesotans off of MNCare.

This legislation was extensively vetted over 4 years, so the Governor (and every DFL and Republican legislator who opposed it as well) had every opportunity to offer solutions or ideas. Instead, one of his primary arguments is that our workforce is aging and the SWHI bill does nothing to address that. As far as I can tell every work force is aging, including the Executive Branch of our state government. Short of discovering a Fountain of Youth, one of the ways I have been told that you can prevent aging is by keeping your mind sharp by thinking. Education Minnesota has been thinking of a solution.

The Governor also criticises the bill for failing to address the runaway cost of prescription drug coverage. I find this criticism the most disheartening of all. Rather than merely complain, this issue could have been the perfect opportunity for the Governor to use the power of his office to partner with this legislation. He could have offered a tandem solution to prescription drug costs and coverage that could have not only dove-tailed to the statewide pool, but possibly enhanced Minnesota Care as well. Instead of creativity he offered criticism. Health insurance in Minnesota will continue to languish from this disappointing lack of leadership.

Of course there was an entire contingency of legislators who also spent 4 years refusing to lead on this issue and instead failed to commit to the intense work of finding common ground for the common good. They measured their votes in 10,000 steps and $6 million subsidies, rather than in the long-term health of crafting a real solution for our state.

We must call on our elected officials to take opportunities to show real leadership. This lesson is not lost on me.

No comments: