As we wait for Governor Dayton to call back the Legislature for a special session with a budget agreement, state employees are planning for the worst and hoping for the best.
The basic divide seems to be this: Does the state government need more money? Some say yes, others say no. Many say it is time for reform.
To clarify, spending in the Legislature’s budget proposal is increased by 12 percent if you exclude American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) money from the federal government in 2009. The last biennium spending was at $30 billion, this legislature’s proposal is to spend $34 billion.
Either way you compute it—this is an increase in spending and not an “all cuts budget.” Increasing the state budget by $4 billion is still fiscally responsible and stays within the state’s projected revenues. In other words, we do not need to borrow money or increase taxes to fund the budget in the next biennium.
Within the Legislature’s budget bills are many long-overdue reforms such as the formation of a Sunset Commission to eliminate obsolete programs and departments, priority-based budgeting, competitive grant processes, and reducing the state workforce through attrition (not layoffs) by the year 2015.
Will these reforms resolve the systemic problems with our state spending habits? They should—but this will be a bold move in redesigning the way core and essential services are provided.
Governor Dayton talks about helping the most vulnerable Minnesotans, but his proposal lacks the reforms included in the Legislature’s budget, which would offer low-income Minnesotans more market alternatives in health care and education. The Legislature’s proposals would serve vulnerable individuals better than Dayton's policy proposals, which are only more of the same programs at higher costs.
Real reforms that make sense moving into the future will make us more competitive in areas of education and private-sector job growth.
In addition, the Affordable Care Act has started the dialogue as to how we can provide health care to our citizens in the most efficient way and offer access to all. Regardless of your opinion as to whether the ACA should be repealed or refined, the conversation has started, and that is a good thing.
Bills could be signed that meet the governor’s funding targets such as K-12 education and public safety/judiciary. The Transportation Bill will allow our highway construction workers to continue their projects as funded already. There is no need for a shutdown in these areas of our government. In the meantime, our state workers and vulnerable citizens are being used as bargaining chips for an unnecessary tax increase because of an all or nothing stance.
We do not have a revenue problem, and “taxing the rich” is a shortsighted answer that will ultimately harm our fragile economy. I do not want a state government shutdown, and I hope the governor will keep his word when he told viewers in a debate on Oct. 24, 2010—he would not shut down the government in order to get his tax increase.
Please call Governor Dayton’s office at 651-201-3400 today—he has the power to call for a special session so we can move forward and do what is best for all of Minnesota.
Rep. Andrea Kieffer, Republican, District 56B