Minnesota State Senate
Senator John Hoffman
2235 Minnesota Senate Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
Senator John Hoffman Pushes to Eliminate Taxes on Social Security for Seniors
St. Paul, MN - Senator John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin) strongly backed legislation to eliminate state taxes on Social Security income, saying it will put more money in the pockets of the seniors he represents.
Senator Hoffman said the provision to eliminate Social Security taxes was part of a larger tax measure that passed the Senate last week. The measure will now be part of final negotiations over tax and budget policy as the state legislative session moves toward its finish by late May.
"The "greatest generation" - our retirees - have done so much for this country and for Minnesota over many decades," said Senator Hoffman. "Because of them, we now have great schools and a quality of life second to none. I am committed to their well-being in many ways, and my efforts on Social Security is part of that commitment."
In 2021, Sen. Hoffman and his DFL colleagues pushed to eliminate state Social Security taxes, but that effort was blocked by the majority in the Senate.
For the 2021 Session Update:
A historic HHS budget bill passed the Legislature during the June special session, appropriating over $16 billion in general fund spending on investments to support families and individuals across Minnesota. With a strong focus on families, children, and individuals with disabilities, this bill is a vast improvement for Minnesota and the care it provides. It was an honor to serve on the conference committee and have the opportunity to help shape this bill with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I am dedicated to continuing working together in a bipartisan manner because we are stronger together.
PCA and home care rate increases: A major difficulty of the PCA program is a workforce shortage and high turnover as funding hasn’t kept pace with the program’s needs. Along with a 15% rate increase for PCAs that reflects the SEIU contract agreement, this bill creates a new payment methodology and applies it to a range of PCA services and the upcoming “Community First Services and Supports” that begin this fall. In addition, home health care providers will also see a rate increase under this bill.
Increased funding for homelessness supports: This bill includes additional funding for emergency services program grants, a flexible funding source that supports homelessness providers, emergency shelter grants to increase Minnesota’s shelter bed capacity, and community living infrastructure grants aimed at helping people with disabilities with housing instability get and retain housing.
New grants and services for individuals with disabilities: Additional dollars available for home and community-based services resulting from a recent federal relief bill will have a huge impact for people with disabilities. Funding to help people move from provider-controlled settings to independent settings, creating incentives and provider grants to increase the direct care workforce, initiatives to shift service models from congregate care and subminimum wage settings, and increasing grants focused on respite care providers are all included in this bill. Among the grants “The Rick Cardenas Self-Advocacy Network” renames and expands the purposes of the existing grant program from self-advocacy to include training and support for service option selection, statewide conferences and training focused on self-advocacy, informed choice and community engagement skills, and an annual leadership program. Rick Cardenas was a larger than life presence that advanced disability equity in tremendous ways while helping uplift others to fight for themselves and others. We remember him always with this name change and expanding the utility of this grant in the ways it can support people with disabilities.
Parenting with Disabilities Implemented Supports: Due to limitation in law, parents with disabilities were not able to receive assistance in child-rearing tasks even if the assistance was something as simple as portioning out food for the child as well as the parent. With this legislation, additional assistance that covers child-rearing tasks will be implemented so that parents with disabilities and their children have the full support they have always deserved. Patient who reaches the age of majority permission request that their records be deleted if at least seven years has passed since the last entry authorization.
Pathfinder Pilot Program: We know that one of the struggles of staying sober and fighting substance use disorder is support and connection after treatment. I advocated for a pilot project utilizing an application that is easily downloaded onto someone’s phone and connects them with services and support that has proven vital in combating substance use disorder and maintaining the freedom of those striving for it. The pilot will be tested in Anoka County and I look forward to seeing the results after a year of work
For the 2019-2020 Biennium, Senator Hoffman has continued to advocate for the following:
Children with complex medical conditions can require a multitude of services to live their best possible life. It is important that hospitals inform the individuals and organizations that form the child’s care team of what occurred at the hospital and what care will be needed afterwards. Legislation Senator Hoffman passed will guarantee exactly that, so that no miscommunication or lack of communication causes a child harm. Instead, proper information to all of those involved will protect and provide the best opportunities for children with complex medical conditions in Minnesota.
Minnesota One Stop for Communities
Senator Hoffman acquired funding to assist Minnesota One Stop for Communities. This is an organization that assists parents in navigating the various public systems, particularly when child services comes to their door. Their mentors are parents who have been through this process as well, so they understand the fears and concerns and how to address the situation to keep families together.
I have continually advocated for safe operations for our businesses to have the opportunity to economically support our families and funding to ensure that we don’t lose our businesses and valuable services provided to so many who need it. We must balance the need for safety with the ability of Minnesotans to provide for themselves, their families, and their communities. In the complicated world of Medical Assistance (MA), there exists several provisions which put the most marginalized people at a significant disadvantage. We worked in a bipartisan manner that addresses the inequities in the current Medical Assistance “spenddown” system.
I was the chief author of the MA spenddown bill and was able to get relief by increasing MA spenddown from 75% to 80%. Recently, I was a co-author on a bill to finally get that to 100%. Bringing the MA spendown to 100% provides equity to people who need MA by increasing the income and asset limits for eligibility consistent with other MA eligible people.
This legislation signed into law for 2022 will affect 40,000 people with disabilities and seniors and will make it much easier for them to remain as independent as possible in their communities. When these people receive the care they need and maintain their financial independence, they can be more active members of our communities, which is good for everyone.
I have fought to ensure that we don’t lose vital services due to a lack of funding during the COVID Pandemic. Services such as Non- Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT), Early intervention for children with disabilities, day programming, vocational training and more services that ensure people with disabilities in need of services have their right to community, respect and every opportunity to succeed.
My office ran an investigation into how our employees with disabilities are treated within our state agencies and found a myriad of issues and abuses. While there are many causes, the implementation of the program to assist them, Connect 700, was a base issue that was resisted and those who brought the best ideas ignored. The governor noticed our work and set a process in place to hopefully address this and get Minnesota to where it needs to be. I am monitoring this situation closely as it progresses to ensure that our employees all have equal access to employment and their dignity understood and respected.
Addressing Minnesota’s rising health insurance rates
I am a long-time champion of better health care access and coverage for all Minnesotans. The current rate hikes for MNsure are incredibly troubling, and there is no denying that changes must be made. We can all agree on this. But it is also important to point out that last session, Senate Democrats heard and passed three separate proposals all aimed at reducing the price of premiums. These bills did the following:
Sought federal approval to reduce the number of geographic rating areas. These federally mandated geographic ratings have contributed to higher rates in much of rural Minnesota. Bill chief authored by Sen. Matt Schmit (DFL-Red Wing).
To increase choices, we introduced legislation directing Minnesota to apply for a federal waiver making it possible for all Minnesotans to purchase MinnesotaCare. By adding a new health plan (rated statewide) all rural families win with greater choice and lower cost. Bill chief authored by Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato).
Requested a federal waiver to allow families, with employer provided health care, to include the premiums for family plans in their calculations when determining if they are eligible for a tax subsidy. This measure allows families that currently do not qualify for premium tax credits or cost sharing reductions to reduce the cost of their plan. Bill chief authored by Sen. Vicki Jensen (DFL-Owatonna).
In addition to these proposals, I believe we should examine a reinsurance program that provides government assistance to insurance providers for the individuals with the most expensive medical conditions. This would bring down insurance premium costs considerably for all other individuals participating in the exchange. This has already been the case with the State of Alaska in legislation that was passed this year. The Senate has been looking ahead towards increasing health costs and have put forth solutions to help our communities, but we need to do more. These proposals, once signed into law, will benefit the thousands of Minnesotans seeking access to affordable health care.
Health and Human Services Bills Supported
Children Program Funding
Two of the major investments Senator Hoffman has supported over the last four years are increased resources for our child protection system and measures to reduce barriers and increase availability for families when in need of affordable child care. (HHS 2015 Budget, 05/17/15, S.F. 1458)
In 2015, Senator Hoffman supported an unprecedented $52 million ongoing investment in our state’s child protection system. This investment will provide counties with additional resources to better respond to child maltreatment reports and provide more tailored services to families in need.
In the same budget, Senator Hoffman supported provisions that helped low-income families access affordable child care, so that families are able to participate in the workforce without losing money paying for child care.
Autism Treatment Options and Coverage Expansion
In each of the last four HHS budgets, the Senate has included measures to help families with children with Autism. Senator Hoffman has supported all of the Senate’s proposals and the final Conference Committee compromises. Some of the provisions include reducing the fees paid by parents of autistic children when they are accessing treatment, establishing a benefit in public programs to cover Autism-specific treatment, and requiring insurance companies to cover treatment of Autism in the private market. (HHS 2013 Budget, 05/18/13, H.F. 1233) (Omnibus Supp. 2014 Budget, 05/16/14, H.F. 3172) (HHS 2015 Budget, 05/17/15, S.F. 1458) (Omnibus Supp. 2016 Budget, 04/28/16, H.F. 2749)
Nursing Home Funding
Over the last four years, Senator Hoffman has voted for four Health and Human Services budgets that have provided more than $170 million in increased reimbursements for nursing homes. These funds are especially vital in the rural areas of our state, as in some smaller communities a nursing home may be the area’s largest employer. (HHS 2013 Budget, 05/18/13, H.F. 1233) (Omnibus Supp. 2014 Budget, 05/16/14, H.F. 3172) (HHS 2015 Budget, 05/17/15, S.F. 1458) (Omnibus Supp. 2016 Budget, 05/22/16, H.F. 2749)
5% Increase for HCBS
In 2014, Senator Hoffman supported a vital 5% rate increase for community-based providers across the state. These providers serve many people with disabilities in need of services to live within community settings. The rate increase will help providers, especially in the rural area where there is a shortage of people willing to perform these tasks, retain quality employees. (Omnibus Supp. 2014 Budget, 05/16/14, H.F. 3172)
Protecting First Responders
In times of crisis, we have always depended on our first responders to swiftly provide life-saving services to our communities. First responders are willing to risk everything to protect our families. For their courage, Senator Hoffman believes that these heroes are worth fighting for.
Senator Hoffman chief authored legislation to assist first responders if exposed on duty to bodily fluids that could potentially contain viruses and infectious diseases. Specifically, this bill allows first responders to petition courts for blood samples from source individuals to test for pathogens. On a case by case basis, the court would weigh the need for test results with the need to protect privacy, health, safety, and the public interest. (SF 3350)
We ask our active service members to risk everything in the protection of our interests around the world. It would be a shameful disservice not to offer our best efforts in protecting our veterans when they return home.
Senator Hoffman wants to ensure that none of our veterans are left behind. Since 2013, Senator Hoffman has voted for a total of $26.7 million in additional funding for veteran services and projects, including housing and mental health support. Senator Hoffman supported legislation SF 2785 that allows out of state persons who are honorably discharged from the armed forces to receive resident tuition rate at Minnesota public postsecondary institutions. Additionally, Sen. Hoffman voted for SF 2356 to make veteran-owned small businesses more competitive for government contracts up to $25,000 for goods, services, and construction. In the same bill, provisions are made to allow military retirees to deduct their military pension benefits from taxable income. This measure is estimated to save 19,000 military retirees an average of $1,315.79 per year on taxes.
After hearing the experience of Navy serviceman Douglas Washing, Senator Hoffman created a bill that allows active-duty members to retake driver’s tests without adhering to the mandatory practice period under Minnesota law. This ultimately streamlines the process by which active-duty personnel can obtain civilian driver’s licenses.
In 2014, Senator Hoffman voted in favor of allowing very ill individuals to have access to medical cannabis in very controlled situations. Eligible individuals include those near the end of life as a result of a terminal illness, children with uncontrollable seizure disorders, and cancer patients who experience severe and chronic pain. (Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research Act, 05/16/14, S.F. 2470)