Top Republicans asked state Human Services Department officials at hearings Tuesday, how they plan to re-pay the federal government, after over-paying 25 million dollars to Minnesota Native American tribes for substance-abuse treatment programs:

Republican Senator Michelle Benson from Ham Lake asked Acting Human Services Commissioner Pam Wheelock:

“So it is your intention to request money from the legislature for the overpayments, if you don’t recover it from the tribes?”

Wheelock: “Madame chair, that is not what I’m saying. I’m saying that we need more about what the facts of this are.”

Benson advises Human Services officials to find the money in their budget, contending programs cuts shouldn’t be necessary:

“If they can just have 173 unfilled positions and just squirrel that money away somewhere, I think they need to look at that before they come to us and ask for money.”

Benson adds, unless Native American tribes did something wrong, the state shouldn’t go after them for the money.