The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 18, 2013

DFL budget leaves out reform

By Al DeKruif
The Mankato Free Press

---- — The 2013 Minnesota Legislature started facing a projected budget shortfall of $635 million and by state mandate must balance the budget.

The new DFL controlled government has a “fix” for this shortfall; raising taxes and fees for all Minnesotans by as much as $2,944,895,000. Yes that is $2.9 Billion! That’s $547 for every man, woman and child in Minnesota, $2,188 for a family of four. There are not enough “rich” people in Minnesota to raise that kind of money, so they have to tax everybody. The hard working folks in Minnesota cannot afford these tax increases to feed the DFL’s insatiable appetite for growing government. In fact they wouldn’t have to raise taxes at all, not even $1 to close this budget gap.

During the 2011 budget session a $5 billion deficit had to be dealt with, due to the recession/slowdown in our economy. The GOP Legislature balanced this budget for the most part by making government more efficient, lowering the projected growth of many state programs and by continuing a school shift that the DFL Legislature began the previous biennium. These actions, just one year later left Minnesota with surplus monies to start paying back the school shift, but the governor vetoed that proposal. Our budget projections are still benefiting from the legislative changes we made to roll back the automatic growth of government.

In 2012, the GOP Legislature created the Reform and Redesign Subcommittee. The subcommittee’s mission was to pursue an efficient, effective, citizen-centric government. This year the DFL controlled Legislature did away with the Reform and Redesign Subcommittee, seeing no need to reform government and replaced it with a Tax Reform Committee — in reality a “Tax Increase” Committee.

It takes real work and courage to produce a more efficient and effective government. Democrats are sidestepping the unpopular job of making government more efficient. It is easy to grow government; by creating and expanding programs and government jobs via tax and spend. It is much more difficult to eliminate out of date and non-essential programs.

Economizing the government means going line by line in our state budget, reducing budgets where necessary, and either combining or eliminating departments that have outlived their usefulness. In fact an easy fix is to simply reduce the projected growth of automatic spending increases for government programs.

The point here is this DFL Legislature wants to once again grow government. Take the education budget as an example. The DFL says they are raising taxes to improve education for our Minnesota students. That sounds noble, but in reality that is not what is happening. The current Legislature has removed the requirement for basic skills testing to become a teacher, delayed teacher evaluation put into law just last year, and removed the necessity for a student to even pass a test to graduate from high school. That doesn’t appear to me like the Legislature is improving education.

In the meantime when many of our students try to get into our own Minnesota colleges, they have to take remedial reading and math classes to qualify. See “Getting Prepared: A 2010 Report on Recent High School Graduates Who Took Developmental/Remedial Courses,” University of Minnesota (January 2011). Why are we dumbing down our Minnesota education system when we should be striving to produce world-class education? The answer lies in Education Minnesota, the teachers union.

Minnesota has many wonderful, dedicated teachers who have told me Education Minnesota is no longer representing them. Growing education and gaining more members is more important to Education Minnesota than producing measurable results. From 1992 to 2009 student population growth was 8 percent, total school personal grew 40 percent with teacher personnel increasing 18 percent.

If you produce measurable results you might be able to hold both students and teachers accountable and responsible. Education Minnesota doesn’t want inferior teachers to be held responsible.

Minnesota can and must do better. Raising taxes and growing government, whether it’s the education budget or any other government budget should not be our goal. Producing better results is what is necessary for our state to thrive and compete in a global economy.

Al DeKruif is a former District 25 state senator. He is the owner of DeKruif Enterprises and Sakatah Trail Resort. He lives in Madison Lake. Sources for this article can be found in the online version.