The top priority for lawmakers this session will be to set the state’s two year budget.
This process began on January 27th as Governor Dayton formally released his budget proposal. While there are areas of the Governor’s budget where I think we can find some common ground, ultimately it brings us further down the path of unsustainable government spending and growth for Minnesota taxpayers.
Governor Dayton’s budget calls for a $3 billion dollar increase in general fund spending for the next biennium. This increase in spending will bring the state’s budget over $42 billion. This is a seven percent increase from his most recent budget for the 2013-2014 biennium and a twenty percent increase from the budget passed in 2011.
While the Governor has a long list of programs and initiatives that he would like to see funded, perhaps the most pressing need is finding a solution to address our state’s crumbling roads and bridges.
The governor’s transportation proposal calls for nearly $9 billion dollars in new taxes, fees, and fee increases. Among these taxes and increases is a proposed 6.5% increase in the state’s gas tax and an increase in license tab renewal fees. Ensuring that our state’s roads and bridges are safe and reliable is a priority for the government to address. Unfortunately, any discussion on funding for fixing our roads and bridges ultimately includes exorbitant increases in taxes and fees on Minnesotans from the governor’s proposal.
Now is not the time to impose new gas taxes on Minnesotans, especially given that we are finally starting to see some relief at the pump. People work hard to be able to pay their bills, buy groceries, and put gas in their cars. Now that gas prices are falling, folks are finally starting to see some disposable income in their pocketbooks. It is much better for our local economies to see this extra money in our community as opposed to St. Paul taking more of your hard-earned dollars.
We need to be able to do more with our existing resources to fund our transportation needs. Reprioritizing spending in our already existing budget would go a long way in addressing our transportation priorities without increasing the burden on our taxpayers. Other ideas being suggested at the legislature include finding spending efficiencies at MNDOT and reinvesting those dollars in roads and bridges as well as investing our state’s surplus in transportation projects.
I am looking forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find a responsible solution to our transportation needs and am confident that we will come to an agreement that works for all of Minnesota and does not put such a heavy burden on Minnesota’s taxpayers.