The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Your View

July 12, 2013

GOP anti-tax hurts poor, disabled, seniors, students

This is in response to Al DeKruif’s Your View published June 19, “Democrats used bait and switch on business.”

DeKruif extols the “Republican philosophy of limited government and growth and opportunity for all.” DeKruif’s sugarcoated portrayal of conservative ideology ignores numerous ugly realities over 10 years of Minnesota history.

Presumably, DeKruif would glorify the Republican-controlled 2011-2012 Legislature, which dragged Minnesota into a nearly-unprecedented state government shutdown.

Following eight years of Tim Pawlenty (Gov. No New Taxes) in 2011, most Republican lawmakers eagerly embraced a rigid No New Taxes pledge. On spending, Republicans demonstrated the same extreme rigidity, wearing pennies taped to their lapels to emphasize they wouldn’t accept a state budget one penny more than $34.2 billion.

Meanwhile, Gov. Dayton offered flexible budget caps, and cut in half his initial proposal to raise taxes on the highest incomes. Republicans also borrowed against future school funding to help balance the budget. The 2011-12 Legislature is nothing to celebrate.

DeKruif argues, “No tax increases were necessary to balance this year’s budget.” Minnesota’s Constitution requires a balanced budget; expenditures cannot exceed revenues. As such, whenever there is a state budget deficit, No New Taxes philosophy will inevitably force addressing it with 100 percent spending cuts.

This philosophy dominated during Pawlenty’s governorship (2003-2011) and the 2011-12

Legislature.

The results? Steep funding cuts to programs helping disabled adults, nursing-home assistance for seniors, and aid programs for poor families and children (in 2003, Pawlenty derisively dismissed those clobbered by these cuts as “victims du jour”)

Skyrocketing property taxes, a result of local governments addressing budget shortfalls caused by repeated cuts to Local Government Aid.

Soaring tuitions at state colleges and universities. As 2013 dawned, MnSCU funding had been cut below fiscal year 1999 levels.

These Republican-forced, brutal cuts have resulted in lost faculty positions, increasing class sizes, more classes taught by adjunct faculty, skyrocketing tuitions, and students and families assuming crushing debt burdens. For 2011 Minnesota college graduates who borrowed to finance their educations, the average debt burden was nearly $29,800, third highest nationwide.

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