ST. PAUL – State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Watonwan County) said the big news of the week came from Minnesota Senate, where the body approved a $367 million bonding bill, which funds constructions projects across Minnesota, and where Democrats submitted a budget that would eliminate Minnesota’s more than $6 billion budget deficit.
“I thought both proposals sent a bad message to Minnesotans,” Torkelson said. “I believe we should have eliminated the deficit before we pass bonding bills, and I don’t think the budget should be balanced through billions in tax increases.”
Torkelson said the nearly $400 million Senate bonding proposal is slanted heavily towards Metro Area wants as opposed to rural Minnesota needs. The bill includes proposals that would improve a gorilla exhibit at the Como Park Zoo, create a Asian Pacific cultural center in St. Paul and a bike trail in Coon Rapids, and renovate Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.
“None of these projects are in urgent need of funding, and the entire bill exceeds the usual three percent state budget borrowing limit,” Torkelson said. “If we’re not careful, we’re going to drive up the cost of borrowing money in the future for projects that are really needed.”
Torkelson said the Senate DFL budget is concerning in at least two ways. First, it wants to create $4 billion in new revenues by raising yet-to-be determined taxes over the next four years. And while the Senate majority would also cut state government spending by $5.1 billion over that same time frame, all programs - including K-12 funding for local schools - would likely take 7% cuts in revenue if this plan became law.
“I think it’s important to protect our schools as much as possible during this budget crisis,” Torkelson said. “The proposed K-12 reductions by the Senate majority are way out of line, as are the $4 billion in tax hikes that would likely be paid by our already struggling working families and small business owners.”