Minnesota Senate Minority Leader Dick Day, R-Owatonna, and Senate hopeful Paul Koering unveiled the Republicans' legislative priorities for the 2001 session Thursday afternoon in Brainerd.
Speaking on the Crow Wing County Courthouse lawn, Day outlined six issues the GOP will focus on and sought to bolster the campaign of the Fort Ripley area dairy farmer who is challenging Sen. Don Samuelson, DFL-Brainerd.
Day called for the Legislature to:
-- Provide local control, fair funding and new options for schools.
-- Make prescription drugs affordable for seniors.
-- Protect families from sex offenders and drunken drivers.
-- Initiate a 5 percent across-the-board income tax cut, return the budget surplus and eliminate the "sick" tax.
-- Constitutionally dedicate half of the Minnesota Vehicle Excise Tax to roads and stop expansion of light rail transit.
-- Prevent the government from selling personal data without consent.
Day said Minnesota continues to be one of the highest taxed states and its criminal justice system has too many loopholes. He wants to see the fourth and subsequent DWI offense within 10 years be considered a felony.
Day criticized Samuelson's opposition in the last legislative session to the Fair Medicare Act and claimed the DFLer stood in the way of discounting drugs to nearly 500,000 seniors. The act, Day said, would allow Medicare recipients to buy drugs at the same 20 to 40 percent discounts that Medical Assistance recipients receive. The cost would be borne by the pharmacies, but Day said most of them are owned by companies such as Walgreens and Target. He estimated there were only 70 or 80 small, privately-owned pharmacies in the state.
Contacted today, Samuelson called the Fair Medicare Act "a terrible proposal" that would have called for the state's pharmacists to bear the cost for reduced drug prices for seniors. The measure failed
He said a pharmacy association estimates the number of non-chain pharmacies is about 500. Day's amendment, Samuelson said, failed 46-14.
The DFLer prefers a proposal that would have manufacturers offer the same drug discount to seniors without insurance that are awarded to state and private hospitals and medical assistance recipients.
Speaking at the news conference, Koering called for state funding for those school districts that wanted to provide all-day, every-day kindergarten and for more school counselors.
"Money spent early on (in education) is an investment," Koering said.
He also wanted to have Senate District 12 nursing homes reclassified from Deep Rural to Metro so state reimbursement to nursing homes would be increased. Koering said he would be a voice for farmers in the Senate.
"Farmers are not feeling this prosperity," he said. "They're in dire straits."
Day said Republicans need to pick up seven seats to achieve a majority in the Senate next year.
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