The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 19, 2013

Blue Earth County makes pitch to lawmakers for help

MANKATO — A day before Mankato civic leaders hit the state Capitol for their annual lobbying day, Blue Earth County officials arrived in St. Paul Tuesday to talk to lawmakers about everything from who should pay hospital bills for jail inmates to the need for state funds for fixing the Rapidan Dam.

The two-day lobbying trip, made in conjunction with a meeting of the Association of Minnesota Counties, was preceded by a Blue Earth County Board workshop where County Administrator Bob Meyer reviewed the legislative agenda and made sure commissioners were heading to the Capitol with a unified message.

At the top of the list was Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal to boost state aid to counties after years of falling or stagnant assistance from St. Paul. Under the governor’s budget, Blue Earth County would see its county program aid rise from $2.1 million to $2.6 million. The latter figure would get the county back to the level it was at in 2006.

County officials also will be making the case for a lasting fix for the recurring budget shortfalls the state has faced for the past decade, saying that a structurally balanced budget will ease the burden on property taxes that comes with cuts in state aid.

The commissioners and Meyer, who are slated to meet with six lawmakers whose districts include part of Blue Earth County, have a wish list that includes the following:

Hospitalized inmates

It doesn’t happen often but when an inmate at the Blue Earth County jail requires a stay in the hospital, the jail gets the bill. Legislation at the Capitol would make inmates eligible for Medical Assistance — pushing the cost on to state and federal budgets rather than hitting the jail with an unexpected and potentially budget-busting bill.

“The medical expense could easily be a six-figure bill,” Meyer said.

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