The highlight of the past week at the State Capitol was the unveiling of Governor Tim Pawlenty’s proposed two year budget. The Governor’s task was especially daunting as Minnesota currently faces a projected $4.8 billion budget deficit - and that total is expected to significantly rise in the next few weeks when the next budget forecast is released.
In this time of economic crisis, Minnesotans are seeking leadership from their elected officials. And with this budget proposal, I believe Governor Pawlenty provided it.
The important message he sent to Minnesotans is that state government will not balance its budget by taking more of yours.
The Governor’s Fiscal Year 2010-11 budget actually spends less than in the previous budget of 2008-09 - a rare feat. His recent proposal totals $33.61 billion for the next two years, which represents a 2.2% reduction from the $34.36 billion spent in the previous budget cycle. The deficit would be eliminated through budget reductions, accounting shifts, and utilizing expected federal stimulus funding.
One area targeted for budget reductions is welfare. Governor Pawlenty recognizes that Minnesota gives welfare recipients some of the greatest benefits in the nation - and its coming at unsustainable costs to the working taxpayer. The reductions the Governor wants to make in this area would put Minnesota’s welfare benefits more in line with those of our neighboring states.
But other government programs are receiving strong prioritization. The Governor said he wants our kids to be the state’s top priority. So, he’s proposing to not decrease K-12 education funding and ensure that all Minnesota children have access to state health insurance benefits. He also is protecting our nursing homes, veterans, public safety programs, and providing incentives to create jobs.
While there are several components of his proposal that I don’t agree with, I applaud the Governor for understanding that Minnesotans are sitting around their kitchen tables struggling to balance their budget. State government needs to do the same. To make this happen, our government has to do what our families are doing - live within their means.
Pawlenty has provided us a roadmap and listed his priorities. He has showed us the direction he’d like to take our state and I believe he’s on the right track. We are now waiting on the House and Senate Democrats to come forward and share their priorities with us. Until then, we will begin having hours and hours of testimony in our House committees and begin moving this budget process forward.
HOW WOULD YOU SOLVE THE BUDGET DEFICIT?
Many of you have ideas on how to solve our budget deficit. I and other lawmakers have been meeting regularly with other Minnesota budget leaders to form a Budget Hawk Task Force here in St. Paul. Our goal is to communicate with the public about the budget situation and develop solutions that will work without further taxing Minnesota families.
As a result of these meetings, we have introduced a website, www.mnbudgetsolutions.com, which I hope you will take a moment to visit. In addition to seeking people's input, you will find an interactive budget calculator, articles discussing why and how the government needs to live within its means, and eventually there will be discussion from state experts. Take a look when you have some free time, and as always, let me know your thoughts and suggestions.
Please let me know what you think. You can write me at 247 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155. You can call me toll free, at 1-888-683-3436 or e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. To sign up for my email updates, please visit www.house.mn/28B and click on “Email Updates.”