I was surprised by former Republican state Sen. Al DeKruif’s May 30 commentary about the just completed legislative session. I wonder if he had confused Minnesota with dysfunctional Wisconsin, because — after two years of a DFL governor and DFL legislature — our state has a dramatically different story to tell than the one he told.
When the 2013-14 Legislature convened in January of 2013, Minnesota was in a sorry state. We were coming off a nationally embarrassing government shutdown in 2011. We faced a $1 billion deficit and owed our children’s schools another $1 billion. Property taxes were skyrocketing, having risen 86 percent in 10 years. In 2011, Republicans eliminated the Homestead Value Tax Credit — raising taxes by another $375 million for Minnesotans homeowners, small business owners and farmers in 2012.
Our schools were being starved, our college students were being priced out of their classrooms by soaring tuition, our unemployment rate was 5.8 percent, and our middle class families were having trouble just getting by.
The one thing — the only thing, in fact — Republicans could point to as an accomplishment was putting two extremely divisive constitutional amendments on the ballot.
The difference between the GOP-controlled 2011-12 legislature and DFL-controlled 2013-14 legislature couldn’t be more clear.
We pledged to focus on priorities to provide middle class Minnesotans the economic security they deserve. We vowed to put an end to the budget-balancing games the previous legislature played and make the hard decisions required to put the state on a fiscally responsible path, including the creation of a more fair and equitable tax system. We promised strategic investments in areas that help our children learn and our small businesses thrive.
How did all that work out? Very well, actually.
In 2013, we passed a balanced budget that made historic investments in education, jobs and property tax relief. The billion-dollar deficit turned into a billion-dollar surplus.