We have tabulated the results of a legislative survey I made available online. I thank the hundreds of people who participated and want to pass along the responses.
We had an $876 million surplus when I launched the survey and the first question I asked respondents was how we should use surplus funds. A 62-percent majority say our first priority should be to repay shifted K-12 education funds. Coincidentally, the Legislature passed a bill to do exactly that when we learned our surplus has since grown to $1.2 billion. Disappointingly, Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed that bill (H.F. 2083), keeping additional surplus money in the state’s hands instead of sending $430 million more to our schools.
The most popular No. 2 priority (41 percent) for surplus funds among survey participants is to put the money in savings to protect us against future economic downturns and unstable national and global economies. The most common No. 3 priority (29 percent) is to reduce taxes so taxpayers keep more of their money in the future. An overwhelming majority (72 percent) says the No. 4 – lowest – priority should be to use surplus funds to fuel additional government spending.
Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) indicate the best way to begin repaying delayed K-12 education funding is to reduce spending in order to grow the surplus. Proposed biennial spending for the budget we passed in 2011 is now down to $33.8 billion as reforms we enacted gain traction and generate savings. That new spending total is far less than the unsustainable $39 billion the previous majority had put in place. The $33.8 billion figure is even less than the $34 billion many identified as the benchmark of responsible spending during last year’s budget discussions.
On a related note, more than two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) favor holding the line on/reducing spending and keeping flat/cutting taxes to help grow the economy.
Crucial decisions regarding health care remain at the Capitol and a majority of survey respondents (63 percent) say we should reject the Obamacare plan and pass private-sector reforms that offer Minnesotans more personal freedom and flexibility in healthcare coverage. I have personally authored close to 10 bills that would help us do just that.
We, in the Legislature, continue working on tax reform. A question I asked regarding the area in greatest need of reform provided split results, with property taxes (43 percent) the favored choice and income taxes (39 percent) a close second place. We can interpret that response to mean plenty of improvements are needed in both areas.
A vast majority (78 percent) of respondents do agree the governor and Legislature should work to provide greater property tax relief to homeowners and businesses. The House recently passed a bill (H.F. 2337) to accomplish this and we are working on sending it to the governor.
In terms of transportation spending, respondents (80 percent) favor putting money toward roads and bridges over light rail projects (20 percent).
A proposal is being discussed which would amend the Constitution in order to guarantee all citizens the individual freedom to decide to join or not join a labor union, and to pay or not pay dues to a union. A majority (57 percent) supports this initiative.
The last question I asked in the survey is whether the Legislature should be participating in discussions pertaining to the construction of a new Vikings stadium. The majority of respondents (56 percent) say we indeed should have this discussion. Talks continue at the Capitol, although we have not received a formal bill for consideration on the floor.
Thanks again to all the citizens who provided me with great input by participating in my survey. I will keep the responses in mind as we face important issues in St. Paul. Feel free to send me an email at email@example.com to weigh in on the issues if you were unable to take part in the survey.