By Dean Urdahl
Recently the Minnesota House of Representatives passed its 2005 budget resolution. This resolution sets the maximum amount of General Fund money that the State of Minnesota will spend in the next two years. It does not say where the money will come from or where it will be spent. It is just an maximum amount.
We passed a budget resolution that set our spending limit at about 29.8 billion dollars. This represents a 1.9 billion dollar increase over the last biennium, or a 7 percent increase in our state budget.
There was an effort to raise the budget resolution through an amendment that would have increased the cap by about $350 million dollars. Proponents pledged that this money would go education. However, as I indicated, there is no designation of where the money in the resolution should go. Therefore, there was no guarantee that education would have any greater claim to this money than transportation, health, human services, or any other area in need. Plus, the proponents proposed to extend the sales tax to clothing to pay for the increase.
While I strongly support education and the need to place more money into the formula for funding, I did not feel that this amendment was the best way to realize that goal. There will be other ways and other opportunities to invest in education.
We will now continue the process of putting together our budget in the House of Representatives. In the end it likely will not call for the raising of any income or sales tax. A possibility remains that gasoline or cigarette taxes could be increased. Local property taxes may rise in part because of the level of funding established by the State.
Minnesota remains a state that ranks high nationally in tax rankings. We have made progress in dropping our tax ranking and in holding down the level of increase in state spending. Remember that within our departments we are still spending more money. But while we must be prudent and prioritize - much like a family does - we must also maintain our investment in what makes Minnesota great, including our people, our education system, and our healthcare. We will attempt to put together a budget that accomplishes that end.