If there's one thing our local legislators on both sides of the political aisle can agree on, it's that something needs to be done about healthcare costs in Minnesota.
In a Legislative Town Hall held Monday night at Ecumen Detroit Lakes, State Sen. Kent Eken (D-Twin Valley), Rep. Paul Marquart (D-Dilworth) and Rep. Steve Green (R-Fosston) each voiced their support for a 25 percent rebate or "buy down" on health insurance premiums, which is one of the proposals that could be on the table if a special legislative session is called during the last couple weeks of 2016 to deal with the health insurance issue.
"There's a good chance that the governor could call a special session on Dec. 20," Marquart told the 40-50 area residents who came out for Monday's forum, sponsored by the Detroit Lakes Area League of Women Voters, Ecumen Detroit Lakes, Becker County Coalition of Lake Associations, Detroit Lakes Public Schools Adult Basic Education, Lakes Crisis & Resource Center, Lake Agassiz Regional Library and the Congregational United Church of Christ.
Though Marquart indicated that the current health insurance crisis in Minnesota would be the main topic of the special session, he said that he hoped the tax bill and bonding bill could also be revisited before the end of the year.
"That would be fantastic," he said.
"I'm not going to be holding my breath this time," said Eken about the possibility of a special session. "But it is encouraging."
Eken said there was "a need for immediate relief" with regard to health insurance premiums.
"I think something needs to be done and we need to do it soon," he added. "That's what's driving this (push for a special session)."
Eken noted that farmers in this area would be hit especially hard by the jump in premiums.
Green said that while he was skeptical that the special session would actually come to pass before the end of the year, something does need to be done about the health care situation.
However, he added, "If the Affordable Care Act changes (or is repealed), what we do may be obsolete."
Eken agreed, but added, "I don't think we can afford to wait for the feds" to do something about the Affordable Care Act before taking action on the state level.
Though all three supported the 25 percent buy down proposal, they also acknowledged that this would be a "stopgap measure" at best, and a more long-term solution would need to be found.
"Compromise is key," said Eken, adding, "It's not a four-letter word. It's an essential part of the democratic process."
"I hope both sides can work together," said Marquart. "We have some really huge issues we have to deal with."
Green said that when he started in the Legislature in 2013, "We didn't have any compromise. It was very, very frustrating."
On the other hand, he added, "I think we can work together, and we have worked together. We pass a lot of legislation."
Eken said that it's imperative for legislators in greater Minnesota to work together, on both sides of the aisle, because "we're outnumbered."
Also discussed during Monday's forum was a change in farm tax law to give farmers a break when it comes to paying for school bond issues, as well as funding for Detroit Lakes' $34 million wastewater treatment plant, the Heartland Trail, and universal pre-kindergarten education.