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

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THE GOP’S FUZZY BUDGET MATH

Monday, April 18, 2011
The irony is incredible. The party that constantly said throughout the campaign — and still says today — that they would “live within their means," and “only use the money in the checkbook” has produced a budget that does neither. Maybe hypocrisy would be a better word for it. Last week the commissioners of Minnesota Management and Budget, and the Department of Revenue sent the Republican leadership a letter explaining that the budget authored by the GOP was out of balance by $1.2 billion. This is due mainly to the fact that their bills contain millions in unsubstantiated savings and phony money. The House Health and Human Services Finance Bill contains $750 million in supposed savings that can’t be supported by fiscal notes, which consist of non-partisan analysis by experts in government agencies. These fiscal notes explain how much a bill or provision will cost, or how much it will save. In the HHS bill, Republicans are counting $300 million in savings for a “global waiver” to exempt the state from various federal requirements for the state’s Medicaid plan. The problem? The chances of getting this waiver are zero. The Obama Administration has said they will not grant these waivers, but the Republican bill counts the savings anyway. Then when the savings don’t materialize, the bill forces the Department of Human Services to cut Medicaid provider rates, shifting the burden to our elderly and disabled. The bill contains another nearly $450 million in other “savings” that cannot be verified by fiscal notes. The tricks and shifts continue in the State Government Finance bill, where Republicans are booking $170 million in savings and revenue that are grossly exaggerated. The bill counts $36 million in revenue from cooperative collection efforts with the federal government; the fiscal note says we will only gain $4 million in revenue. The bill counts $133 million in revenue for tax analytics, but the Department of Revenue can’t quantify or guarantee any revenue at all. Those aren’t small discrepancies. Those are huge differences that reveal a dishonest budget. Other Republican budget bills would steal money from the lottery fund and other constitutional funds to fill budget holes — which is unconstitutional — and shift money from the Fire Safety Account and the emergency responder radio system to the General Fund. Another GOP bill steals $60 million from the Douglas J. Johnson Iron Range Fund. This fund, paid for in part by the Taconite Production Tax, is meant to help the Iron Range diversify its commercial industries so the region does not suffer as its mining resources become depleted. This is local property tax money, paid for by the Iron Range that belongs on the Iron Range. A true, honest all-cuts budget, spending just the money in the checkbook, wouldn’t touch this money. Governor Dayton’s budget balances, requires shared sacrifice, and funds our priorities and the services that make Minnesota great, while including reforms to strengthen our health care system, make government more efficient, and ensure that taxpayers are getting the best bang for their buck. Governor Dayton’s budget is the only one that balances, uses fiscal analysis and doesn’t need phony money or gimmicks. The governor’s budget is currently the only honest proposal. With just over a month left in session, it’s time for the Republicans to put out a serious, honest budget that actually balances. 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 rep.michael.nelson@house.mn, 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