To the editor
We received the latest state budget forecast today and it calls for a $6.2 billion shortfall in the 2012-13 biennium. It's more a spending problem than a shortage of revenue.
The report shows revenue will rise by 5 percent, but that pales in comparison to a 28-percent surge in state spending that's scheduled. That path just isn't sustainable and we will not get back on solid fiscal ground until spending is brought under control.
Shortfalls have been the norm the past four years, but now things are different because the readily available short-term fixes already have been tapped; we've spent our reserve account and resorted to federal aid, K-12 shifts and one-time funding reductions just to stay afloat. A lot of those "easy" solutions have actually left us in a worse spot today, serving as major factors driving $8.3 billion in spending growth for the next biennium. Here's a rundown:
Replacing federal stimulus money: -$2.3 billion
School shifts: -$1.9 billion
School shift buyback: -$1.4 billion
One-time reductions: -$660 million
Government program growth: -$2 billion
What this all means we have to get serious about rethinking the way our state operates, just like small businesses and families throughout Minnesota have done during this recession. We have offered many common-sense solutions to help us create a more efficient government and now they will likely face their due consideration; I'll get into those another time.
There's no doubt we will face some tremendous decisions during the 2011 session and it's going to require us to think forward and display real leadership at the Capitol. Minnesotans elected Republicans to a majority in both bodies of the Legislature because they wanted an emphasis on fiscal responsibility and a strong private-sector workforce; it's our responsibility to follow through on this position. I firmly believe we can avoid repeated budget deficits and get Minnesota back on track by setting good priorities, living within our means, and growing private-sector jobs.
Your input is always welcome and will be especially helpful to me as we close in on the 2011 session, which starts Jan. 4.
Rep. Bud Nornes