Recently the Minnesota House approved legislation that begins to address our state’s $994 million budget deficit. The plan was touted as a spending reduction bill totaling $312 million, even though it also raised taxes in the form of new fees and increased mandates on businesses.
House Democrats are apparently going to try to tackle the deficit elimination in several phases. Phase 1 made budget cuts to every area in state government except health and human services and K-12 education, which is interesting because HHS and K-12 take up most of the state’s $32 billion biennial budget.
I give credit to the Democrats for trying to reduce government spending, but they did not go far enough. Governor Pawlenty had recommended $400 million in cuts in these areas, while the House settled at $312 million.
I was also disappointed that the majority failed to address the full budget picture. To date, there have been no talks of how K-12 education will be affected or health and human services. It would be nice if we at least had estimates of how much they planned to cut in these areas. As it stands now, with more than $600 million left to reduce from state spending, it appears the Democrats plan to cut nursing homes, the disabled community, and classrooms to make the numbers balance.
To me that’s the wrong approach. The fact that the bill violates the single subject clause in the Constitution was reason enough to vote against it, but to piecemeal together a budget reduction plan while holding secret meetings to decide what to do with HHS and K-12 spending is just poor leadership.
I hope Governor Pawlenty vetoes this bill and tells House and Senate Democrats that it’s time to get to work and present a full budget plan. With no budget targets for the two largest areas of state government, the Governor should reject it in favor of a proposal that addresses our shortfall problem in its entirety.