By Rep. Bud Nornes
The recent news of a $1.2 billion state surplus in the current biennium is good news, but enough economic uncertainty remains that we would be best served to temper our exuberance.
The report from Minnesota Management & Budget is a forecast and the economy is fickle, subject to change along the way. Companies like Best Buy, IBM and Target are downsizing in Minnesota. So is Kmart in Fergus Falls and Alexandria. How will this impact our economy and will other businesses shrink, reducing jobs and otherwise damaging our growth? Nobody knows for certain where we will be two years from now.
Added to that, we have yet to see the long-term impacts of tax increases Democrats passed last year. At the very least, the $1.2 billion surplus indicates Minnesotans were taxed far more than necessary under the majority’s new budgeting.
Our best approach to appropriating these surplus dollars was to start by eliminating some of those new taxes. I supported proposals to repeal three business-to-business sales taxes on warehousing and storage, equipment repair, and telecommunication equipment. We got that done in the House early this session and await action from the Senate and Gov. Mark Dayton. It is interesting how even people who voted for those tax increases last year are coming around and now show support for eliminating them. As somebody at the Capitol said, “This is an election year. Everybody is a tax cutter now.”
We also should look at using surplus money to further build our reserve accounts. The bar on them has not been raised to match spending increases, meaning the old standard is now a lower percentage. Having more in reserves would help us fare better in the event we face future economic hiccups.
In any case, the last thing we should do is treat the surplus revenue as found money that we can spend for the sake of spending. Again, our economy is still recovering after the worst recession since the Great Depression and we should avoid overreach.
After all, it was only 2011 when we had to erase a $5 billion shortfall. We in the former majority accomplished that, enacted fiscally responsible improvements and have enjoyed a positive bottom line ever since. We have not received a shortfall projection since February of 2011.
This has been termed the “Unsession” and our focus should remain on eliminating unnecessary and outdated government practices. That started with repealing those taxes. Many of us also would like to bring an end to unpopular works in progress, especially the $90 million Senate office complex and the unionization of private, in-home child care providers.
I welcome input from citizens on this and other issues. The best way to reach me during the session is by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.