For more information contact: Jodi Boyne 651-296-0640
When the Legislature adjourned on May 23, Governor Dayton had yet to sign or veto the balanced budget we put on his desk. The next day he called a press conference to announce he vetoed all of the budget bills. Because we had adjourned, his delay left us no option other than a special session, which the constitution says can only be called by a governor.
To date, Governor Dayton refuses to call a special session until every budget bill is agreed to. His position is causing our state to have a near-total government shutdown even though our differences are very small.
For example, transportation projects across the state are on hold, but the disagreement on the transportation budget is $43 million, a small fraction of the overall multi-billion transportation budget. State parks are shutdown despite a smaller $22 million difference in funding largely unrelated to state parks. The two sides are $10 million apart on higher education and $9 million apart on public safety. In the scope of a $34 billion budget, these are relatively small differences and they could be worked out quickly and easily if the governor called a special session.
Why won’t Governor Dayton allow that to happen? I believe, as was recently stated in a St. Paul Pioneer Press editorial, that the governor feels shutting down some of the most visible aspects of government – like parks and road construction – will create public pressure to raise taxes. As the newspaper put it, “The DFL governor is apparently thinking he can inflict enough pain on the state to force the Republican Legislature to its knees.”
There are still two areas we are far apart on moneywise: health and human services and state government agency funding. These are what the governor wants his tax increase for, and what he feels are worth shutting down all of government to get. Even though, as you’ll recall last year, he promised during a televised debate that he would not shutdown government to get a tax increase.
What I believe the governor fails to realize is that a tax increase will not be a long-lasting fix to our persistent budget problems. Sure, it would make the books balance for long enough to satisfy the constitutional requirement for a balanced budget, but they won’t stay balanced for long. The truth is, spending and taxes are both set to increase through inflation if we do nothing. But that natural spending growth is happening far faster than the natural growth in taxes. Even if we did raise taxes this year, it won’t keep up with spending growth. Two years from now we’d be right back here again, looking for someone else to tax to solve the same problem. Whose taxes will the governor want to raise then?
The solution lies in controlling spending. The $34 billion General Fund budget we passed represents a $2 billion increase over General Fund spending from just two years ago. That’s how ingrained spending increases are in the budget: $2 billion more isn’t enough to keep up with inflation. As a percentage, in this economy, most people would be happy to get an increase like that. But to government and Governor Dayton, it’s not enough.
Erickson can be reached by phone at (651) 296-6746. She can also be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via U.S. Mail at 509 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155.
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