Budgets are a reflection of our values. We make statements about our priorities as state legislators through what we choose to fund and where we make cuts.
The bills being considered in the Minnesota House of Representatives right now do not reflect the values that I heard from many of you last summer and fall. I heard from you that Minnesota needs to invest in our children, our families, our workers, our disabled family members and friends, and our grandparents. We need to be stewards of our air, water and land. Our roads are in desperate need of repair and improvement. I am worried about what the Republicans’ proposed budgets say about Minnesota’s priorities.
One of the biggest differences in priorities is in tax bill. The DFL offered proposals that would include investments in the Working Family Credit, Renter’s Credit, or Local Government Aid. The Republican Majority’s tax bill prioritizes people inheriting over $5 million which equates to a $161.71 million tax cut to the wealthiest Minnesotans over working families at the expense of working Minnesotans.
The E-12 Education bill also shows where the majority party’s priorities lie. Gov. Dayton’s proposed budget seeks to increase the per pupil formula by 2%, includes a $40 million increase for special education, and expands preschool to our youngest learners. On the other hand, the House Republican Education Finance bill completely eliminates the Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten programs. It also would extend the existing K-12 education tax credit to include expenses spent on tuition for private schools (including parochial schools), as well as create a generous new tax credit for contributions to foundations that provide scholarships for nonpublic schools.
The Environment bill cuts the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. It rolls back Gov. Dayton’s buffer program that keeps our waters clean to accommodate the corporate farms and cuts environmental oversight program by $94 million from existing spending.
The Transportation bill shifts $450 million from the General Fund, pitting transportation against educating children and caring for the elderly. It relies heavily on borrowing ($1.3 billion) for which the debt service that will be paid long into the future. It also puts heavier trucks on the roads which will make bridges and roads less safe and increase wear and tear. The most troubling thing is that it fails to tackle the transportation funding shortfall in a long-term, reliable or responsible way.
Our Minnesota values prioritize working families. Our Minnesota values prioritize strong public schools. Our Minnesota values prioritize the environment over corporate polluters. Our Minnesota values prioritize reliable and responsible long-term funding over a transportation funding shell game. We need our Minnesota values reflected in the budgets we put forward here at the legislature.