ST. PAUL – As the Minnesota House DFL leadership prepares to pass a budget that increases state spending and taxes by billions of dollars in order to fix our $627 million budget deficit, State Representative Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center) wonders why the majority party isn’t more focused on eliminating fraud and government waste.
“Recent reports show that program and benefit abuse exists in Minnesota,” Cornish said.  “Instead of making sure all of our money is being spent effectively, our leadership is ignoring the problem and asking taxpayers for more money.”

Two months ago, a Department of Human Services memo cited five cases of fraud and abuse that resulted in nearly $3 million in overpayments from state government. Cornish said these investigations occurred thanks to the government reform policies approved by the Republican-led legislature last session.


But with new leadership comes relaxed standards.  Last month, the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) issued a report faulting the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) for failing to check the eligibility of participants in a number of public assistance programs that provide medical, cash and food benefit to low-income citizens.


Under state and federal law, agencies are required to verify income levels for participants in the various public assistance programs. The OLA report cited the MinnesotaCare insurance program as having failed to adequately verify the income level of participants.


In addition, despite federal requirements, DHS failed to cross-check and address discrepancies in reported income levels with other government data for the Medical Assistance program, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance food-stamp program.

“This is a double whammy for taxpayers,” Cornish said.  “Not only are we paying people to sit around and not do their jobs, we are also doing nothing to take able-bodied people off the dole.  Before we ask Minnesotan’s to pay several billion dollars, we should eliminate all potential fraud and government waste that exists within state government.  Doing so would help trim our projected deficit and ensure that all of our tax dollars are being spent wisely.”



Democrat Budget Priorities Will Hurt Hard Working Minnesotans


ST. PAUL – Governor Mark Dayton used his most recent State of the State address to reiterate his budget priorities for the next two years, a plan State Representative Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center) said will force the poor and middle class to pay more in order to radically expand the size of state government.
"I tried to warn people that the goal of Democrats this session is to raise your taxes and spend more on government programs," Cornish said. "They have an insatiable appetite to tax people, and now that they control all levels of state government, they’ll leave no stone unturned to see what they can get away with."
The governor’s plan includes a $2.5 billion state spending increase from the previous state budget.
Cornish said there are many new taxes that the Governor wants everyone pay. If all of them are approved it will be a $3.7 billion increase for the next two years alone.
The majority of the tax increases would come through the sales tax. While the Democrat chief executive wants to lower the rate to 5.5 percent, he also wants to expand the sales tax to dozens of new areas, including:
• Clothing purchases
• Car repairs
• Over the counter medications, such as aspirin.
• Internet purchases
• Haircuts
And Cornish said that’s just the beginning.
"I believe we’ll also force Minnesotans to pay more in fees and fines, things like speeding tickets and permits," Cornish said. "If it’s something you need to purchase or pay through a state agency, I think you’ll likely be paying more this year than you did last year."
"I’ve already heard from clothiers and barbers, worried about the tax increase and passing those costs on to their customers," Cornish continued. "As more details from this plan come forward, I’m sure I’ll hear from more residents who are not happy about paying higher taxes."
Cornish said that over the past year, each economic forecast has improved Minnesota’s budget outlook. He hopes the Democrats will wait until after the February forecast has been issued before they approve their tax increase plans, but if that forecast is worse than expected, to look for them to find additional things to tax to make up the revenue difference.
Cornish added that spending cuts appear to be out of the question. Out of the Governor’s $38 billion budget proposal, he only offered $167 million in spending cuts. In other words, for every $22 in new spending, there’s only $1 in reductions.




St. Paul – Minnesota’s 2013 Legislative Session officially began January 8 with Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center) and 133 other state representatives being sworn into office during a ceremony at the State Capitol. 


“It’s an honor to represent the people in Watonwan, Blue Earth and Waseca counties, and I look forward to hearing from them and fighting for their needs over the next two years,” Cornish said.


Most of Rep. Cornish’s work during the first months of session will take place in House committees.  Cornish said he was pleased with his recent committee assignments, as he will serve as the Republican Lead for the House Public Safety and Finance Committee.  Cornish is also a member of the Judiciary Finance and Policy, and the Environment and Natural Resources Policy committees.


Speaking of committees, Cornish said he was disappointed with the Democrat decision to eliminate an agriculture finance committee, even though it chose to increase the number of House committees overall.


“Agriculture is a critical component of Minnesota’s economy, and eliminating that committee is a bad sign for rural Minnesota,” Cornish said.  “Worse, the Democrats have combined agriculture with environment finance.  This means the chairperson, who is from Minneapolis and has historically voted against agriculture finance proposals, will now decide whether rural development programs should receive money or if she should just spend them on her favorite environment projects.” 


“Common sense would tell you a rural Democrat should probably be in charge of funding priorities in rural Minnesota,” Cornish continued.  “Instead, a Minneapolis environmentalist will now dictate how and if ag and rural development money is going to be spent.”




Rep. Cornish Approves Flood Relief Package



ST. PAUL – State Representative Tony Cornish (R-Good Thunder) says he’s happy members of the Minnesota House and Senate were able to pass a flood relief package that will help storm victims rebuild their homes and communities.  Cornish voted in favor of the bill during a special session that was held on August 24.
“Families and business owners in northern and central Minnesota have been waiting on this assistance, and I’m pleased we were able to approve it,” Cornish said. 
The nearly $168 million flood aid package agreed to by the House and Senate includes money for residents and business owners to use for clean-up and restoration projects.  In addition, the state will pick up local the communities' share of FEMA grants, thus easing the financial burden on local governments. 19 counties were affected by flooding and storms in June and July.
“The storm damage across the state, especially in northeastern Minnesota, was unbelievable,” Cornish said.  “I’m hopeful this disaster relief package will help give victims the assistance they need to rebuild and recover.”





Tax Relief and Job Creation Act Sent to Governor

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Legislature has approved the Tax Relief and Job Creation Act, and it has been sent to Governor Mark Dayton for his signature.  State Representative Tony Cornish (R-Good Thunder) voted in favor of the proposal.
“This bill is good news for people who are looking for a job, as well as many of our cities with provisions that protect or increase Local Government Aid,” Cornish said.  “It’s a good bill and I hope the Governor will sign it.”
Cornish said small towns would appreciate this bill, as it allows cities with populations under 5,000 to receive either their paid 2012 LGA or certified 2013 LGA - whichever is greater.
Also included is the provision that allows small businesses to take up-front capital equipment exemptions rather than wait months for a refund, as well as the Greater Minnesota Internship Grant program, which will help keep more talented workers in rural Minnesota, and a Veterans Jobs Tax Credit which encourages employers to hire veterans.
With the 2012 session having come to a close, Cornish said this was his most productive year in the Minnesota House.  As chairman of the House Public Safety Policy and Finance Committee, Cornish played a key role in crafting new crime policies, including penalty increases for the criminal neglect of vulnerable adults, motor fuel theft, allowing law enforcement to fingerprint any offender to eliminate a suspense record, and allowing county attorneys to carry a handgun while at work if they have a permit.
“This is easily the best year I’ve had in terms of passing legislation that affect people’s lives,” Cornish said.  “As public safety chairman, our goal was to be tough on criminals while helping victims of crime, and I am pleased with our accomplishments.”





Rep. Cornish: Number of High Profile Bills Headed to Governor Dayton

ST. PAUL – State Representative Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center) said Governor Dayton will be receiving a number of high profile bills to sign or veto in the coming days.
“The House and Senate have reached agreement on a number of bills that have made headlines at the Capitol this year, and more are on the way,” Cornish said.
The first measure continues to improve Minnesota’s environmental permitting process. Effective April 3, the law requires the Pollution Control Agency to notify project applicants if permits are complete or incomplete within 30 days. If incomplete, the PCA must detail application deficiencies and how they can be solved. The law requires all environmental permits to be issued or denied within 150 days.
“Prior to last year, we heard from businesses who chose to relocate in other states because this costly permitting process was taking more than a year to complete,” Cornish said.  “Basically this is a bill that makes it easier for business owners to expand and create jobs in Minnesota.”
A bill that would pay back the school shift payment extension enacted last year is also on its way to Governor Dayton’s desk.  The proposal would take $430 million out of budget reserves and return it to the schools, which Minnesota is able to do since Minnesota’s economy has made a $6 billion turnaround and it has $1 billion sitting in the bank.
The final measure will not need Governor Dayton’s approval because you will have the opportunity to vote on it this fall.  Both the House and Senate have passed compromise legislation that will ask Minnesotans if they want to amend Minnesota’s Constitution in order to require photo identification prior to voting.
“Last year we sent a voter identification bill to Governor Dayton to sign but he wanted no part of it,” Cornish said.  “That’s why we’ll let the voters have their say this fall and decide once and for all if they think providing a photo ID at the polls with strengthen the integrity of Minnesota’s election system.”




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