With the 2011 session adjourning in less than five weeks, “ the Republican majority in the Senate is far from finishing even the first step in the process – passing a complete budget,” according to State Senator David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm). The House and Senate have approved nine spending budgets and a tax bill, but the differences between the two versions are vast, and each bill is more than $1 billion short of solving the $5 billion budget deficit.
“The budgets Republicans passed are proof they cannot solve the historic $5 billion budget deficit through cuts alone,” Tomassoni said. “Rather than making the tough choices necessary to eliminate the $5 billion deficit, the Republicans’ budget relies on pilfering money from the Range’s Doug Johnson fund and unsubstantiated and unrealistic savings estimates that leaves a $1 billion shortfall in their budget.”
Iron Range legislators are livid Republicans are diverting $45 million from the Douglas J. Johnson Economic Protection fund to the state’s general fund to help balance the budget. The fund is financed by the taxes on production of taconite the mining companies pay in lieu of property taxes. “Their plan to take our property tax money – money that belongs to the people living on the range is unconscionable,” Tomassoni said. “They know they can’t solve the budget problem without new revenue so instead of increasing revenue in a fair way – like asking our very wealthiest to pay taxes at the same rate the majority of us pay – they are stealing job producing money from the Range.”
The worst proposals in the Republican budget plan will:
· Raid $45 million from the Douglas J. Johnson economic protection fund which will have a huge impact on future jobs on the Iron Range and the entire state.
· Force thousands of Minnesotans, including hard-working teachers, police officers, firefighters, and snow-plow drivers, as well as thousands more in the health care industry out of work. Senate Democrats have offered dozens of amendments attempting to block these cuts, to no avail.
· Rely on more than $600 million in property tax increases on every homeowner and renter in the state. Minnesotans have already seen their property taxes increase by $3 billion under Gov. Pawlenty. Senate Democrats asked Republicans to consider cracking down on corporate tax cheats or asking the top 5% of earners to pay an equal percentage of taxes to reverse the property tax increases, but Republicans rejected those ideas.
· Take away basic health care for 200,000 Minnesotans and slash funding to nursing homes and hospitals. Their proposal cuts funding for child care, disability services, help for the mentally-ill and chemically-dependent, and relief for the homeless. Their budget would even prevent poor, disabled adults from getting prosthetics to replace lost limbs. Every DFL amendment to offset these cuts was rejected or ruled out of order by Republicans.
· Cut funding for Minnesota’s public colleges and universities by nearly 20%. School officials have warned these drastic cuts could force administrators to close one or more Minnesota campuses. An attempt to offer students a simple tax credit to help pay for higher tuition was rejected in committee.
· Close state parks across Minnesota and advance extreme proposals to weaken Minnesota’s clean water laws and environmental protections. Again, all attempts to temper the language were rejected by Republicans.
“We are down to the final weeks of session, it’s time for Republicans to put a truthful budget proposal on the table,” Tomassoni said. “Honestly, after eight years of Pawlenty’s no new tax policy that has left Minnesota with no new jobs and years of deficits, it is time to enact a balanced plan of fair tax increases combined with fair spending cuts to create jobs and finally fix this budget mess once and for all.”
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