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Last month, the Republican-led legislature passed a complete balanced budget that increases state spending at the level Minnesotans can afford and sets our state on track for a sustainable future. Unfortunately, a special session is at hand as the Governor remains adamant on a nearly $2 billion tax increase to fuel 15% higher government spending. The Governor has largely remained absent from the negotiating process, and is instead relying on a massive public (mis)information campaign and rhetorical tactics as he drives us towards a government shutdown. The reality of the situation is that our budget represents increases spending above current levels to fund priorities, drives reform, and doesn't raise taxes.
Here a just a few reality-checks about our budget:
Current Budget we are living on: $32 Bil ($30 Bil state plus $2 Bil federal stimulus money)
GOP Proposed Budget: $34 Bil 6% increase above current spending
Gov. Dayton/DFL: $36 Bil 12.5% increase
Myths and Realities:
The Claim: GOP budget raises property taxes by $1 Bil
The Reality: Property taxes are dictated by local governments and all but 3 cities would receive the same state aid as 2010. The GOP budget realigns state government to economic reality and promotes an innovative environment that will help all levels of government become more efficient with existing revenues. Status quo doesn't work in local government either.
The Claim: GOP would rather protect the wealthy top 2% than the middle class
The Reality: Governor Dayton's new taxes would hit all Minnesotans from employees of large companies to small business owners to anyone who makes an online hotel reservation to downloading ringtones to snowbirds who stay in Minnesota for more that 60 days (instead of the current 6 months). The GOP is committed to protecting all Minnesotans from an uncompetitive business climate and promoting continued economic recovery.
After the State of Maryland added four new tax brackets on high-income earners in 2008, the state lost $1 Bil of its net tax base by residents moving to other states. That's income that's now being taxed and is financing services in Virginia, South Carolina and elsewhere. We are standing against tax increases in order to create a fundamentally growth-friendly environment that allows our families and job creators to thrive in the 21st Century economy. Adding a "snowbird" tax would hurt senior boomers who stay in Minnesota longer than 60 days and hurts the restaurants, tourism and charitable events they attend. That may be Arizona or Florida's gain, but hardly good for Minnesota!
The Claim: GOP cuts more that 30,000 jobs.
The Reality: That number is distorted and contrived. The GOP budget helps grow jobs in Minnesota by providing tax relief for job creators and removing the uncertainty caused by unsustainable government spending. When it comes to our 15 % state government workforce restructuring, this initiative can largely be achieved through attrition and by leveraging the wave of baby boom-generation state government retirees over the next few years. While the Governor and other individuals have talked about reform, our budget makes reform real.
The Claim: GOP more focused on social issues (marriage and abortion) than the budget.
The Reality: Within the first 100 days of session, the GOP passed a budget that reversed unsustainable spending, protected priorities and implemented significant reforms across all areas of government. While Dayton and Tom Horner have talked about reform, the GOP budget has done it! We spent four months on budget issues, pro-growth initiatives like the nuclear moratorium repeal and promoted reforms like zero-based budgeting.
The Claim: GOP cuts nursing homes and senior citizens
The Reality: The GOP HHS bill increases funding to 69 nursing homes and provides stable financing for all with additional flexibility on how their funds are used. Our budget in this area has more funding than current spending and allows for more latitude in how that money is used which allows our senior care providers to best serve our elderly.
The Claim: GOP cuts the disabled
The Reality: The GOP HHS bill would fund a $500 million increase from the current spending level. We focused on funding programs that work and have proven results. The GOP budget promotes paths to increased independence for disability waiver recipients by requiring more frequent evaluations and determination of level of need and is backed by priority-based policy and reform to ensure access, quality and value as we transform to a patient-centered system of care instead of just doing "things". It is exciting to see our "graduates" in the disability community moving to independence.
The Claim: GOP cuts education.
The Reality: The GOP Budget increase state education funding by 3.2% compared to the last budget and for school districts it increased even more due to a change in the formula benefitting growth school districts. Our mission has been "kids first, no excuses, no exceptions." Our budget includes the funding and the reforms to maximize our state education dollars.
The Claim: GOP cuts aid to local governments
The Reality: The GOP Budget maintains state aid to local governments at 2010 levels for all cities but Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth -- 3 of the largest tax-base cities. For all levels of government, we are implementing policy and pursuing innovation to reduce costs, promote efficiency and realign government to economic reality. Sherburne County city and county will get the same local government aid they received in 2010.
The Claim: GOP cuts transit services
The Reality: The GOP Budget increases funding for local roads by over $100 million.
The Claim: GOP budget shuts down government
The Reality: Only Governor Dayton can cause a government shutdown. And the Governor was already planning for a shutdown before session even ended. The GOP passed a complete budget that funds government and makes it sustainable. If we have a government shutdown it will be thanks to a Governor that says $34 billion—$3 billion more than the last budget—is not enough and sinks this state over a $1.8 billion tax increase. We know we can do better. Our budget is a fiscally responsible approach that funds priorities, promotes reform and sets our state up for a sustainable future. Governor Dayton is shutting down government just to raise taxes to make it even bigger.
Republican legislative leadership also went further this week by offering Governor Dayton another compromise proposal that increases K-12 education, courts, and public safety funding—all without raising taxes. These Minnesota priorities were already supported in our complete budget passed during the regular session, and now additional concerns expressed by the governor have been addressed.
As outlined in a letter to the governor, this new Republican offer includes an $80 million increase for K-12 education, while retaining our important education reforms. This new offer also provides an additional $30 million for public safety and the judiciary, in order to further strengthen these crucial state functions.
This new Republican offer represents yet another effort on our part to create a consensus budget funding priorities at the level Minnesotans can afford. After weeks of disengagement by the administration, I am hopeful the governor will now come to the negotiating table and work with us towards a budget rather than force a government shutdown.
The Governor has often said that the top 2 percent of income earners can afford to pay higher taxes. But the Governor's tax-and-spend budget proposal would hit all of Minnesota, including small businesses and the people who work for them. And at the end of the day, this debate is not about what wealthy Minnesotans can afford. It's about what our state can afford--today, tomorrow and ten years from now. A 6 percent state budget increase is more than enough. We're not "cutting" as so many on the left say--we're reducing hoped for increases, and delivering on the needs of our people instead of the wants of government.
As the budget process continues, I encourage you to stay informed and involved. Together we can bring responsibility back to St. Paul, job growth back to Minnesota, and create a stronger future for us all.
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