Sen. Metzen Supports Stable, Responsible Budget Proposal

The Minnesota legislature was on its Easter break last week, and I used the time away from the Capitol to discuss the big issues of the year with constituents in our district. One of the biggest topics is the budget surplus and what to do with it. A number of plans have already been put forward by the House and the Governor, and the Senate has just outlined our proposal as well.
Our targets deliver on a promise of taking a balanced, forward-looking approach to careful fiscal management by increasing the budget reserve, implementing thoughtful tax relief, paying back previous budget shifts, and carefully investing in priorities shared by all Minnesotans. The Senate DFL is leading with the successful approach from the last two years that structurally balanced the state budget, resulted in a $2 billion surplus, and increased the state’s budget reserve and fiscal stability while investing in education and health care. The Governor’s proposed budget makes many excellent investments, and the House proposal spends down the surplus by spending over $2 billion in tax cuts: more than the available surplus. The idea to implement large tax breaks while we have a surplus is initially appealing, but in order to cut taxes at this scale and still invest their campaign promises, the House proposal cuts $1.1 billion from Health and Human Services. Hurting our seniors and our most vulnerable Minnesotans when we have a budget surplus is not the way forward for Minnesota.
Both plans have good ideas and good intentions; the Senate proposal uses some of both to give back some of our hard-earned surplus in tax cuts while still investing carefully in the schools, programs, and reforms that put us on steady financial footing in the first place. This is not a dramatic, headline-grabbing budget; it is a responsible and sustainable one.
Of course, all three budget proposals will be taken into account as legislative leaders negotiate a final budget for Minnesota. While it is difficult to speculate with perfect accuracy, I expect and hope about $1 billion to be spent on services like K-12 education, badly-needed pay raises for health care providers, higher education, and other necessary issues that have been discussed so thoroughly this session. The rest
should be split between road and bridge repair and, critically, the state’s budget reserve, about $500
million each.
Whatever the negotiations may bring, the final budget must avoid the fiscal instability the state suffered in
the late 1990s and early 2000s, when many years of major tax cuts and a lack of foresight led to a $4
billion structural deficit in 2003. I remember the challenges of those years, when a limited budget reserve
was not enough to save Minnesota from economic hardships. As I think about the best way forward for our
state’s budget, I am eager to avoid that kind of situation in the future.
I’m interested to learn what you think the Minnesota Legislature should do with the budget surplus. Please
reach out to me if you have ideas or concerns about this or anything else on the Senate’s agenda. As
always, I can be reached at my office at 651 296 4370 or by email at sen.jim.metzen@senate.mn.
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Senator James Metzen
Sen. Metzen represented District 52, which includes portions of Dakota County in the southeastern Twin Cities metropolitan area. Sen. Metzen passed away shortly after the end of the 2016 Legislative Session.

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