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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL)

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Thursday, March 24, 2011
After weeks of criticizing Governor Dayton’s budget without a competing plan of their own, House Republicans finally began releasing the budget bills this week. The specifics are still coming out, but it’s very clear their budget will be incredibly painful to job growth, our economy, education, and health care. In education, the GOP plans to cut over $11 million from K-12 education, with no plan to pay back any of the $1.4 billion shift, resulting in a tremendous overall cut to K-12. Governor Dayton has actually increased funding in K-12, with additional investment in early childhood education. Republicans also plan to cut $400 million from higher education, which will result in slashed staff, reduced course offerings, larger class sizes, and a $200 million tuition increase across the state. Republicans also plan to cut the Health and Human Services budget by over $1.6 billion, which will no doubt throw tens of thousands of our poor, vulnerable, and disabled off of the public health programs they so desperately need. Republicans are also still determined to attack our public workers, looking to cut funding for state agencies by almost 35 percent. Less than 9 percent of Minnesota’s budget goes to employee pay and benefits. Laying off every single state employee wouldn’t come even close to solving our $5 billion budget shortfall. In fact, there are fewer state employees today than there were 10 years ago — despite our population increases — and as the workforce has been reduced, our public servants have taken on extra duties and responsibilities. Cutting funding for departments will only mean even longer wait times for services, and less efficiency because staff is stretched so thin. Furthermore, if we want a smart, effective, and efficient government, we need to draw in the best and the brightest; something that certainly won’t happen if public employees have their pensions raided, wages and benefits slashed to the bone, and are constantly demonized. Fundamentally though, any talk on the budget has to involve a discussion of what we value as Minnesotans. What services do we want and expect government to provide, and how to we pay for them? Do we want to have the best schools and universities in the country? That requires thoughtful reform and smart investment. Do we want our cities, counties and small towns to fill in potholes and hire police officers and firefighters? That requires investment as well. People certainly don’t choose to live and raise families in Minnesota because of our winter. They stay because of our quality of life, our economy, and our education system. The Fortune 500 companies that Republicans constantly talk about are here because we have an educated workforce, and strong public services. The very businesses that Republicans want to draw into the state would run the in the other direction if their budget cuts become law. The highest tax that businesses pay is the property tax, and the Republican plan to raise property taxes by $1.4 billion. What does that do for job growth? It’s time for an honest discussion about the long-term future of our state. Not just this biennium, or this budget deficit, but ultimately about the future direction we’d like to take our state. I believe that investing in what’s important — education, transportation, public safety, and health care — will ultimately lead to a stronger and more prosperous Minnesota. As always, please feel free to send me your suggestions, questions, comments or concerns. You can reach me by phone at (651) 296-3751, by email at, or by sending mail to my office: 229 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155. Michael Nelson State Representative District 46A