MNGOP Sen. Hann: Some state employees "do nothing," salaries "a clear misuse of public dollars"

Sen. David Hann: Not a fan of the state paying employees to set up the state's health insurance exchange.
Sen. David Hann: Not a fan of the state paying employees to set up the state's health insurance exchange.

Minnesota Senator David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, is upset about the public dollars being spent on a handful of employees working to set up the state's health insurance exchange.

The health insurance exchanges, which aren't expected to be operational until 2014, are mandated for each state by President Obama's health care reform legislation. Minnesota is currently paying nine employees $787,000 annually to set up the exchange.

"There is still no clear purpose for what these people are doing," Hann said at a news conference today. "I think that's a scandal."

The state jobs in question include a health insurance exchange executive director making $108,388 and a communications director making nearly $80,000.

Once operational, the exchange will offer a choice of different health plans and provide information to help consumers better understand their options.

At the news conference, Hann, the Senate health and human services committee chairman, said his question "is simply, what are these people doing? Hiring nine people at a cost to the public of more than three-quarters of a million dollars to do nothing is a clear misuse of public dollars."

Republican legislators have opposed Gov. Dayton's push to set up the state exchange from the beginning. GOPers refused to participate in an exchange task force that handed its recommendations to Dayton earlier this week.

With so much uncertainty about the legal status of Obama's health care legislation -- the U.S. Supreme Court could strike down all or part of the law as soon as this spring -- perhaps Hahn has a point. It would seem wasteful to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars paying employees who might not end up doing any meaningful work for the state.

But in response to Hann's remarks, Dayton pointed out that those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. On the first day of the 2012 session, Senate leadership cut $2.7 million from the Senate's budget to take care of a deficit. With Republicans in majority control, those cuts included layoffs for 14 of the DFL's 40 full-time Senate staffers. On the other hand, Republicans didn't layoff a single GOP staffer, prompting DFL legislators to cry foul.

MPR political report Tom Scheck characterized Dayton's response to Hann's remarks as follows:

In other words, Dayton seems to be saying 'we Democrats can waste money just the same as you Republicans.' It's an easy comeback but not one that really responds to Hann's concern.

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