The Senate Finance Committee passed a bill this week to divert $370 million from the general fund to transportation purposes, including small city and town roads. Currently, only a portion of this revenue from auto parts sales and replacement taxes is deposited in an account for transportation ($145 million).
While dedicating the entirety of Minnesota’s auto parts sales tax to transportation purposes may not be a bad proposal, siphoning funding from the general fund before making a commitment on how to spend the state’s projected $9 billion budget surplus is premature. Republicans have taken a piecemeal approach to appropriating money, altering tax code, and transferring revenue without providing a clear picture of their budget priorities, sustainable revenue to support those priorities, and whether their proposals will lead to deficit spending in the future.
The general fund and the ongoing budget surplus must fund proposals to compensate frontline workers, provide affordable healthcare, fund our schools, and address many other areas that don’t have their own dedicated revenue streams, unlike transportation.
In particular, Senate DFLers are pushing education efforts to provide more school funding per student, reduce class sizes, increase mental health services, and fully fund special education. The Republican majority is more preoccupied with passing unfunded mandates on schools and costly vouchers that would defund public schools by $178 million.
Just this week, a Senate Republican in the Senate Finance Committee referred to providing additional funding for special education through the Department of Education as, “dumping money down a rat hole.” This statement shows the majority’s misguided priorities. Senate DFLers are committed to listening to our schools, who are telling us what they need, and providing the resources for students to succeed. Any efforts this session to transfer money out of the general fund must keep our students in mind and provide resources where they are needed most. (SF 3086)