Deficit spending is not the way to end session
In January, many legislators from both political parties promised the 2012 legislative session would be focused on job creation and economic growth. In the nearly four months since session began, there certainly have been opportunities to make that happen. I carried the Governor’s Jobs Bill, which provided tax incentives and financial support for businesses and job-seekers. I also sit on the Tax Committee, which heard various proposals that could have helped stimulate the economy.
Unfortunately, this session only has provided several missed opportunities and very little actual progress done on the jobs front. The Jobs Bill that I carried couldn’t receive enough support from the Republican majority to move through necessary committees. And the tax bill that Republicans currently are debating in a conference committee does very little for job-seekers or taxpayers, but adds more debt to the state’s budget to provide tax breaks for businesses.
This year’s tax bill proposes almost $200 million in deficit spending to fund tax breaks for the businesses. Large corporations will get the majority of this money. Some of the ideas in the bill may be worthwhile policies that the state should support, but it’s our job as a legislature to ensure we’re passing policies responsibly. Committing to spend money we don’t have is not responsible, no matter how good the ideas are. Spending money we don’t have is exactly why we’re in the situation we are today: Owing schools $2.4 billion and facing a $1.1 billion deficit in the next budget cycle.
Also concerning is the fact that almost none of the nearly $200 million in debt the Republicans are willing to accrue is dedicated to tax relief for homeowner property tax payers. The market value homestead credit that Republicans eliminated last year is predicted to cause $1 billion in property tax increases across the state. Homeowners deserve relief from last year’s pass-the-buck budgeting, but this year’s legislature refused the opportunity to alleviate the tax increases that so many Minnesotans now are seeing.
The Minnesota legislature is assigned 120 days it can use in a two-year period to complete its work. As of May 1, we will have six days remaining on that calendar. With so few days to complete our work, it’s time to focus on the things that really must be passed before we go home for the year. Property tax relief and job creation should be part of that final package if we’re serious about doing something to improve Minnesota’s economy.