This week, the new Senate Republican majority took a stand against responsible, long-term budgeting and creating good-paying jobs in our state.
Their “first round” of proposed budget cuts passed off the Senate floor, which slashed $1 billion from familiar targets—aid to local governments, higher education, and health care safety-net programs. This bill will raise property taxes and college tuition for Minnesota families, but address less than one-sixth of the state’s $6.2 billion deficit. Gov. Dayton, like Gov. Pawlenty always did before him, asked the Legislature to develop a complete budget. Rather than take a piecemeal approach to making cuts, a budget solution must be taken in context of the full deficit. Gov. Dayton will be presenting lawmakers with a complete and balanced budget in just a few weeks, and has asked Legislative leaders to use the same big-picture approach.
Instead, the Republican majority bypassed the committee process to fast-track these cuts. Though I serve on the Health and Human Services Committee, we never saw the Republican’s proposed cuts to health care programs that serve Minnesota’s elderly, disabled, and children. The Republican’s refused to allow the bill to be heard in this committee—shutting out citizen input from the legislative process. This is a horrible abuse of power, and the lawmakers and Minnesota citizens alike deserve the respect of having proposals laid out in a public forum.
The Governor also recently announced a proposal to create immediate construction jobs by investing in shovel-ready infrastructure projects throughout the state. Included in his proposal is funding for maintenance work at the Department of Corrections Moose Lake facility, including door and window repair and replacing the showers, water softeners and a kitchen cooler.
Of the $1 billion bonding package, the Governor proposed $530 million in projects and asked lawmakers to make recommendations for the remaining $470 million investment. They rebuffed his offer—which I find short-sighted and fiscally irresponsible.
Not only does a capital investment package provide an opportunity to get thousands of Minnesotans back to work almost immediately, in the present economy, it’s a very cheap time to complete these repair and construction projects. Interest rates and labor costs are very low, so taxpayer dollars can be saved by doing this work now. Also, by taking action to preserve our existing infrastructure now, we can avoid more expensive replacements in the future.
The actions taken by Republican majority do not reflect Minnesota’s values and do not position our state for economic growth. Rather than fast-tracking a damaging and incomplete budget and refusing to participate in the opportunity to help get folks working again, the new majority should think longer-term and restore our important public process which includes the voices of the public.
I encourage you to contact me with your questions or comments on any issue. You may call me at (651)-296-0293, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to 125 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155.