Today the North Dakota House of Representatives defeated HB 1130. You may recall first reading about the proposal to “assess a fee” which was really a tax increase for private pay nursing home residents here on ND xPlains. The tax was included in former Governor Jack Dalrymple’s budget, and current Governor Doug Burgum supported the tax increase in his budget recommendations.
We can be thankful the ND House defeated this poorly thought out revenue generating scheme. The vote was 89 “nays,” 1 “yeas,” 4 members were absent and not voting. Rep. Jon Nelson (Republican, Rugby) was the lone vote for raising taxes on senior citizens. Nelson is a former Board member of Heart of American Hospital in Rugby.
I know the Long Term Care Association was in favor of this bill because they are short changed as a result of the across-the-board budget cuts under Dalrymple. The Legislature then refused to inject the necessary dollars during the August 2016 special session. The shortfall has resulted in the association looking for other ways to pay for the quality services they provide. Without it, services may be impacted in nursing homes across the state.
The thing is, HB 1130 was the wrong vehicle to address the budget crunch. The law would have placed the burden on senior citizens. Instead, the legislature must find other ways to pay for nursing home services and take care of the individuals that helped build this state. Because of Nelson’s experience, he should understand the budgeting process of our hospitals and nursing homes and the role our state can play. This was a moment for him to lead and he failed. I know Rep. Nelson, and I like him, so I say this as a friend: Jon, what the hell were you doing?
Now that the tax increase on senior citizens is currently dead, the Legislature must look at more pragmatic ways to fund our nursing homes. Whether it is deeper cuts in unnecessary spending like a ban on legislative travel reimbursements for two years, or delaying the implementation of the multi-million dollar corporate income tax cuts that go out of state, there are options. Remember, the Governor and Legislature have said everything is on the table, let’s press them on that. People across the state must demand it.