Very early in this legislative session, the legislature passed HF130, a bill that would have restored last year’s legislatively-ratified unallotments, and sent the bill to Governor Dayton for his signature. That bill, which would have funded those same parts of government at the same rate as last year – rather than the level introduced by government’s projection of spending increases, was the first step taken by House Republicans to solve the budget deficit. Unfortunately, the governor vetoed it.
Not long ago, we received word that our projected budget deficit had decreased from $6.2 billion to $5.1 billion. With this in mind, Minnesota House Republicans moved forward to create budget targets that lawmakers would work with in order to create a comprehensive balanced budget plan.
Governor Dayton’s plan towards solving our budget woes centered on a $4 billion tax increase. Minnesota House Republicans had a different idea, as we have crafted a balanced budget that does not rely on tax increases, and forces government to spend only what it has available. The plan includes a $3.6 billion cut from future spending – or a 13.1 percent reduction from projected levels. The rest of the deficit is made up by continuing a K-12 education funding shift that was approved by last session’s Democratic-controlled legislature. With federal stimulus money no longer part of the budget, and no more education shifts available, the current budget target translates into nearly four percent more state spending than last biennium.
It also sets priorities by protecting funding for nursing homes, the disabled, local classrooms, and veterans programs. But it’s my opinion that we need to set priorities within our priorities.
For instance, let’s look at state employee benefits. We all value their service to the state, but does it make sense that in some areas of government, a worker qualifying for single coverage doesn’t have to pay one cent in health insurance premiums? In some cases, family coverage only requires the employee to pay ten percent of the premium. Meanwhile, those in the private sector are usually burdened with 25 to 30 percent of the single or family health care premium cost – if they receive health insurance at all.
In other words, we have to make tough spending choices, and only fund the projects and programs that Minnesotans truly need. Again, these are extremely difficult decisions to make, but we must go through them in order to solve this repeated budget deficit problem. Minnesotans are expecting us to lead and bring government to live within their means.
As always, if you have ideas or suggestions as to where government can cut spending, please contact me.