States, like individuals, should learn to budget, balance income with expenditures and pay our bills on time with dollars we actually have. The great attraction of this common-sense principle led to making “living within our means” the mantra of every single Republican running for office in 2010.
In retrospect, we are able to look at the state budget fiasco and see if they actually lived up to their campaign slogans.
Nobody on either side argued with the fact that cuts had to be made on the expenditure side of this equation. In fact, over the course of budget negotiations neutral observers pointed out that the DFL governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature were more than 85 percent in agreement over budget targets.
The argument came down to the final 15 percent. Instead of balancing the expenditures with some available revenue increases, the Republican legislative leadership instead preferred to use borrowing and gimmicks to close the gap — $700 million in delayed payments to schools (on top of $1.4 billion the state already owes to our school children due to earlier budget “shifts”) and a $700 million scheme to bond against future tobacco settlement revenues.
It was the Republican-controlled legislature that devised the final budget plan — the governor has no power to initiate legislation in Minnesota. He signed it with reluctance only when it became clear that a continued and protracted shutdown was a greater danger to our state than this shameful piece of legislation.
It was apparent to all that “living within our means” was nothing more than another hollow Republican political slogan.