TakeAction Minnesota (May 21, 2011) – Five buses carrying over two-hundred-and-fifty people jammed the sidewalks around the Calhoun Beach Club over the lunch-hour Saturday, sending a message that the richest Minnesotans – like those belonging to the elite Uptown athletic club – can indeed afford to pay higher taxes, something legislative leaders at the Capitol still refuse to consider.
Margaret Uriah of St. Paul, who stood before a giant banner that read “Mr. Tilford Pay Your Fair Share,” told the throngs that she was outraged that families like hers were falling through the cracks, being cut off health care, and asked to sacrifice more, while legislators choose to shield the richest from paying their fair share. “When CEOs of health care companies like Medica’s David Tilford, providing public health care, make millions and aren’t asked to pay their fair share in taxes, we have a REVENUE problem.”
This week, the Minnesota legislature passed a Health and Human Services omnibus budget that cuts one-hundred-and-forty-thousand Minnesotans off medical coverage while refusing to raise revenue that would head these kind of cuts off.
Meanwhile, health insurance CEOs like Medica’s David Tilford and UnitedHealth Group’s Stephen Hemsley continue to be rewarded with fat compensation packages. Hemsley was Minnesota’s highest-paid CEO in 2009, with a $101.96 million pay package. Tilford, earned over $1.3 million that same year and is a member of the Calhoun Beach Club.
Most of those outside the Uptown club started the day with hundreds of others, attending the People’s Rally for Fair Minnesota at the Minnesota State Capitol. From a packed Capitol Rotunda, Minnesotans from around the state called on House and Senate leaders to produce a responsible budget, like the one Governor Dayton has put forth, that protects Minnesotans by increasing state revenue from top earners.
Saturday’s Calhoun Beach Club actioneers also called for the legislature to reinstate a cap on HMO reserves, which were eliminated in 2004. Medica and the other three biggest HMOs administering public health care programs currently hold more than $1.5 billion in reserves – much of it public money. Medica alone holds $399 million in reserves. Those outside the Calhoun Beach Club said they believe this money should be given back to the people of the state to help balance the budget rather than sitting in corporate coffers.
Dan McGrath, Executive Director of TakeAction Minnesota, the organization sponsoring Saturday’s Uptown action, said that the richest Minnesotans, including CEOs like Tilford, who can afford to belong to exclusive clubs like the Calhoun Beach Club, can absolutely afford to pay higher taxes. “As citizens who have benefitted enormously from living and doing business in our state, they actually have a responsibility to pay more. We’re here today because we refuse to let our health care, our schools, special education students, and Meals-on-Wheels foot the bill for the richest two-percent who are doing better than ever.”