The main goal of this year’s legislature is to create Minnesota’s operating budget for 2012-2013, which begins July 1 of this year. The first step of that process began this week when Governor Mark Dayton released his initial budget proposal. In the coming weeks, we will be asked to compare this plan to the Senate Republican majority’s plan and decide upon a compromise.
While there are many details yet to be learned about Gov. Dayton’s budget proposal, I believe it is a good starting point. The vast majority of residents in Mower, Freeborn and Fillmore Counties will not pay one dime in additional income or property taxes under this budget, and our cities and counties finally are assured they will have budget stability that will allow them to continue providing key local services.
The topic of Local Government Aid and County Aid has been very relevant in recent weeks. Our newspapers have editorialized about the importance of this funding to our communities, and our city councils have been clear that this state assistance is what allows us to have reliable police and fire protection, snow-plowing service and other amenities. Under Gov. Dayton’s budget, this funding to local governments is protected, meaning so are the property tax payers who have been squeezed by $3 billion worth of property tax increases in the past eight years.
After the Governor’s budget was released, many lawmakers spoke out against the proposed income tax increases in the bill, but I want to be clear: This budget process is not a debate about whether to raise taxes or not to raise taxes. It’s a conversation about which taxes will be raised.
The Republican budget plan from last week – which I voted against and the Governor vetoed – would have raised property taxes on every, single Minnesotan. Governor Dayton’s budget plan protects every property tax payer owning a home under $1 million in value, and also protects 95 percent of taxpayers from higher income taxes. To me, it’s an easy choice to support the budget plan that protects our local communities and protects working families from tax increases.
The Governor’s budget also makes difficult cuts to government spending, and I am certain we will continue talking about how to save costs as this session progresses. He also suggests needed government reforms and invests in some of our state’s most important priorities: Education, public safety and veterans.
As I said, I believe this budget is simply a starting point for a bigger discussion, but I am very hopeful that by the end of session in May, we can retain the intent of this budget – to protect property tax payers and Minnesota’s middle-class, and create a state that supports new jobs and economic growth in the future.
Aside from the budget activity, I was happy to visit with many constituents this week. I spoke with representatives from the Land Stewardship Project, the YMCA, a group of local veterans, the Fillmore County Engineer, UFCW members, School Nutritionists and members of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition.
Please feel free to contact me about a visit, the budget or any other issue at: email@example.com; 651-296-9248; Room 19 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155.