At this late stage of the legislative session, we should be nearing a state budget compromise between Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Dayton and wrapping up work in a productive manner, on time, and in a way that benefits Minnesotans. Unfortunately, the Republicans – who are in the majority of the House and Senate – have stuck to a set of priorities that put the wants of the richest Minnesotans ahead of the needs of our communities.
Just this past Friday, the House and Senate Republican majorities set joint budget targets. These parameters for each area of the budget set the stage for final budget negotiations between the House, Senate, and Governor over the next three weeks. Despite the fact that we have a $1.65 billion budget surplus, their budget underfunds our K-12 schools, eliminates our successful voluntary pre-K program, and will lead to tuition increases at our state colleges and universities. In a time of budget surplus, it remains unacceptable to me that we would not at least cover the cost of inflation for our classrooms, let alone make a more meaningful investment to expand learning opportunities for kids. I’ve previously spoken about how desperately home care workers, who provide critical services to clients such as those with disabilities, deserve a pay raise. Staggeringly, they choose to leave almost all of these people behind, which will continue to lead to staff turnover, diminished care, and dangerous settings.
Instead of these investments, which make up some of our most fundamental responsibilities, the House Republicans in charge have put enormous amounts toward tax breaks for the wealthiest among us. Their massive tax bill is focused on cutting the estate tax – benefitting only an estimated 800 wealthy families, a tax break for tobacco companies, and tax credits for contributions to private school scholarships, which serve in effect as back-door vouchers. These not only starve resources available to areas such as education, but can potentially put us on the path to future, perpetual deficits.
Along with my DFL colleagues, I remain ready to engage in discussions leading us to a compromise in these final weeks. Part of this requires a frank discussion of priorities. I hope the House GOP majority will move off of their rigid prioritization of the wealthy and well-connected, and instead take a more balanced approach, considering the needs of hard working Minnesota families. I’ll keep working to ensure we can make the investments necessary to keep Minnesota’s economy strong into the future and create opportunities for Minnesotans, and to do so in a fiscally responsible way.
Please keep in touch as we head into these final days. Your input is valuable, and I hope you will feel free to call or email me anytime.