By Rep. Dean Urdahl
The bills which establish our budget framework are advancing through the Legislature and soon will make their way to the governor. That’s when things will get interesting in St. Paul.
Here’s the lay of the land:
State General Fund spending is set to increase from $30.2 billion to $39 billion in the next two years. State revenue is projected to be $34 billion in the same span.
The House majority has offered a budget plan to stay within the $34 billion in available revenue.
Gov. Mark Dayton proposes increasing spending to $37.3 billion.
Our job will be to find resolution in those disparities. We will have another round of votes in the Legislature when conference committees finish ironing out differences between the House and Senate versions of each bill. Then it will be up to the governor to take action by either approving or vetoing our legislation. The latter would mean legislative leaders and the governor head to the negotiating table to begin working on an agreement.
One key budget area where the Legislature and governor are at odds is with tax increases. Our plan stays within projected revenue, while his proposal increases government spending by 22 percent and raises taxes on income, business, sales and property to help pay for it.
The House’s package of finance bills steers clear of tax increases by setting priorities and focusing heavily on government reform to make the best use of each tax dollar. We also are seeking to improve the business climate to help people get back to work and widen the tax base.
Some people are portraying the House’s budget proposal as a pack of drastic cuts, which is inaccurate since our plan actually increases spending by nearly $4 billion in the next two years. That, too, may be an unsustainable spending level, but it takes time to implement reform and reinvent the way our government functions. We have passed a number of key efficiency reforms – including cuts to daily stipends legislators receive – in this year’s finance bills and will continue working to do more and achieve fiscal responsibility.