By Rep. Linda Runbeck
A myriad of new taxes and ever-larger government spending is what Minnesotans don’t need. But it’s what the Democrats delivered during the 2013 legislative session which ended Monday night. Hardworking taxpayers at every income level will feel the effects of their actions.
Last fall, Minnesotans were wooed by election rhetoric about “taxing the rich” and making sure those at higher incomes “pay their fair share.” Then, Gov. Mark Dayton and the Democrat-controlled legislature began putting together their budget, and it quickly became apparent that taxing the rich wouldn't bring in near enough tax revenue to satisfy all the “wants” of the spenders.
As a result, all Minnesotans will be hit with a $2 billion solution to a $627 million problem (the projected revenue shortfall for the 2014-2015 budget cycle). This level of new taxes and new spending are the wrong direction for our still-recovering economy and for the future fiscal health of our state.
What’s all this taxing and spending getting us? Expanded government. Take a look at just the K-12 Education budget where spending is set to increase by $550 million. There are new, separate advisory task forces to study career pathways and technical education, standard adult high school diplomas, special education caseloads and teacher licensure. There’s also a Minnesota Youth Council Committee, Regional Centers of Excellence and a School Climate Council and School Climate Center.
Expanded government in other departments includes a new office of broadband development, a transportation ombudsman office, an e-government advisory council, a new office of collaboration and dispute resolution, three new trade offices and a trade policy advisory group. A rough tally of new state government jobs at Monday’s deadline was 1,266. With each new job commanding $50,000 minimum in wages and benefits, that adds another $63 million annually to the base of state spending.
Taxpayers are also being forced to fund bail-outs of public employee pension funds – the one that’s gotten the most attention is the $5 surcharge on each home and auto insurance policy which contributes $23 million to underfunded police and fire pension funds. There’s also a spending increase of $300 million in new state employee contracts which include a 10-percent average increase in wages and the potential for some for pay-for-performance bonuses.
I cannot conclude this column without mentioning what appears to be the next front of union-driven government expansion. Democrat legislators, public employee unions and the governor are forcing the unionization of all child care providers despite virtually no demand from the providers themselves. A recent KSTP survey shows 86 percent of licensed providers don’t want to unionize. The only folks to benefit are union bosses to whom $8 million in union dues will accrue.
As this legislative session ends, we see a sharp contrast from the previous Republican-led session devoted to waste-elimination, budget-trimming and structural reform of government. Without raising taxes, tax receipts have exceeded projections in every one of the past 22 months. If, in the final two months of the 2012-2013 fiscal year, this average is maintained, the combined surpluses will total approximately $3 billion! A remarkable turn-around for the state -- again, no new taxes required.
Finally, the increases in taxes and expansions of government going into effect are stunning, and I say that after 15-plus years of serving in the Legislature. In this case, the party in power is taking more money, more power and more control of our personal lives away from our citizens.
Hardworking taxpayers simply can’t afford what’s happening in St. Paul.