The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 24, 2011

Our View: Republican budget cuts hurt outstate

The Free Press

— The Republican no-new-revenue budget will cost Blue Earth and Nicollet counties 500 jobs and $28 million in wages for every year it is in effect.

Those figures equate to the 15 percent cut in state employment Republicans passed in their budget that Gov. Mark Dayton has vetoed.

There will be even more severe consequences in outstate Minnesota and Republican districts if the Republican majority in the Minnesota Legislature continues its intransigence on meeting the legal requirement to balance the state’s budget.

Schools, city, county and even hospital budgets would be disabled while a few folks keep an extra 2 percent of their income over a quarter of a million dollars. Property taxes on businesses and homeowners will rise. That cost of doing business will not only impact jobs, but also create an uncompetitive tax structure in outstate Minnesota.

The stakes for outstate Minnesota have never been higher.

Republican spin should be dismissed. Republicans have ignored Dayton’s significant compromise proposal. They didn’t present a balanced budget. Responsibility for balancing the budget comes with creating one Dayton will sign.

It’s troubling Republicans have known this for some time and continue to waste taxpayer time and money catering to party demands and shirking the people’s needs.

The Republican leadership continues to misconstrue their election, saying they were elected to a no-new-taxes-or-revenue platform. But that’s not true if one considers facts instead of rhetoric. Two statewide candidates for governor, Dayton and Independent Tom Horner, proposed revenue increases to balance the budget. Together they got 56 percent of the vote.

A recent Star Tribune poll showed 63 percent of residents want a balanced budget, using both cuts and revenues. Only 27 percent would balance the budget through cuts alone.

Dayton’s proposal, to tax the upper 2 percent of income earners in Minnesota, would impact very few small, rural outstate areas, where incomes are lower than metro areas.

And Republicans aren’t even honest when they say they will not accept new taxes or revenue. They’ve proposed a new 10 percent sales tax for sports memorabilia to fund the Vikings stadium. How do they reconcile the rhetoric and reality? They can’t, and they’re losing credibility fast.

Dayton isn’t proposing a lot of new programs. He really isn’t proposing “new” spending.

He’s simply funding the programs that have been put in place with bipartisan support from Legislatures of the past. The spending he proposed, about an 8 percent increase over two years, isn’t new. It’s old spending that has grown because more people are eligible for health care and employment services and other benefits that kick in as a hedge against a down economy.

If we completed a spreadsheet for outstate Republicans, we would find that the losses to their constituencies of their no-new-revenues budget would far outweigh any tax that might be imposed on single people making more than $150,000 a year or married couples earning $250,000 or more. (We should note that extra tax isn’t on the full amount of income, only that amount of earnings over the thresholds.)

About a dozen chambers of commerce, from Worthington to Duluth, know the impact the Republican budget will have on their communities. They recently voiced their support for a balanced approach and keeping property taxes low, and opposed the all-cuts GOP budget.

Unfortunately, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce continues to support the all-cuts budget of Republicans. Outstate members of the chamber should consider that position next time they’re asked to renew their membership or join with the Minnesota Chamber on other projects.

Republican leadership may have its so-called principles, however flawed, and maybe that keeps the big donor money flowing. But now is the time for outstate Republicans to lead, or their constituents will be on the bankrupt end of the spreadsheet.