BAXTER-Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives Kurt Daudt on Monday elaborated on a comment he made during the Republican National Convention that could sidetrack special session negotiations with Gov. Mark Dayton.

Star Tribune reporter Patrick Condon was present at a Minnesota GOP breakfast at the convention and tweeted Daudt's comments from when Daudt was speaking to fellow RNC delegates from Minnesota, aside from the main convention activities.

"We're getting close to special session," Daudt said. "Let me decode that for you. The governor has caved on almost everything."

When asked about the "caved" comment Monday, Daudt repeatedly said his remarks at the breakfast were intended for his fellow Republicans, not for the media or for the public at large.

"Obviously, I was speaking to my delegates," he said. "I wasn't speaking to the press or to the public in general. The general public saw the governor's five pages of demands, and then he said 'As long as you're willing to meet every one of my demands, I'm willing to call a special session.' Well, I'm sorry, that's not reasonable. And I haven't yet met a single person, including Democrats, that think that's reasonable."

Dayton "absolutely needed to" scale back his position further back from that list, Daudt said. Therefore, it was appropriate for Daudt to say Dayton "caved," he said.

However, Daudt also said Dayton wasn't caving, per se, and whether he used the word "caved" was "irrelevant."

"Is he caving? No, he's actually meeting me halfway, and I'm meeting him halfway," Daudt said of Dayton.

"If the governor's offended by that word, then I was offended that he put out a five-page demand letter," Daudt said.

Daudt said he was optimistic that there would be a special session in August, but the proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit line remained a sticking point.

 

Mental health meeting

The clarification came after a meeting between Daudt, Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, and the Nystrom family, executives at Nystrom & Associates, Ltd. The company is a for-profit mental health care provider with locations across the state. Brian Nystrom, president and CEO, and his son Peter, executive vice president, talked with Daudt and Heintzeman about how mental health care works in Minnesota and some of the challenges their company faces as a for-profit provider. For example, there's a 23.7 to 35 percent disparity between the rates the state Department of Human Services pays for-profit providers compared to public nonprofits, the elder Nystrom said.

Nystrom said the inequality in how much for-profits are paid relative to nonprofits was the result of a DHS rule change in 2007 intended to increase access to care. The government increased the rate paid to nonprofits while leaving the rate paid to for-profits the same.

However, the change actually limits access because for-profits now don't have as much of a financial incentive to treat poorer patients on public assistance, and instead will pick patients of higher incomes because they can make more money, he said.

"It's kind of like competing in a boxing match with your hands tied behind your back," Nystrom said. "In spite of all that, we've been able to grow."

Daudt said that increasing access to health care was both morally the right thing to do and would also save the state money in the long run. He said mental health was the "next big area in DHS that we need to reform."

 

ZACH KAYSER may be reached at 218-855-5860 or Zach.Kayser@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZWKayser.