Republicans who control the MN House and Senate will be asking DFL Gov. Mark Dayton to sign off on a two-year budget worth about $46 billion. Tax increases passed when the DFL held a majority in both houses are now projected to bring in $1.5 billion more than is forecasted to be required to fund the state government in the 2018-2019 biennium if no new spending initiatives were approved. Republicans plan to deliver $1.15 billion of that surplus back to taxpayers in tax cuts or credits.
While the 2017 Republican budget increases funding to education, it also makes cuts to state government agencies and environmental work. It would provide for significantly less than Dayton wants for schools, transportation, and health and human services.
While DFL legislative leaders see the surplus as funding required to cover vital state government services, Republican leaders see their budget as reflecting the kind of austere approach to spending taxpayer dollars that Minnesotans want.
As Rep. Jenifer Loon, Eden Prairie-R, pointed out in a recent column she wrote for the Eden Prairie News, Republicans have accomplished much this session:
Advanced both short and long-term solutions to help lower premium costs and brought stability to Minnesota’s individual health care market
Passed a common-sense budget that limits government growth, invests in priorities like education and transportation, and provides significant tax relief
Invested $1.1 billion more than the previous biennium budget in education, including more than $300 million in proven and effective early learning programs to help close the achievement gap.
Strengthened teacher recruitment and retention
Advanced a long-term transportation plan that invests $6 billion over the next decade without raising the gas tax or metro area sales tax. The plan uses existing transportation-related revenue sources and a portion of the state’s surplus to address critical transportation needs across the state. For the metro area, it would fund projects that will ease the flow of traffic, as well as reduce congestion and commuter time.
The Star Tribune made clear, in an article published on April 29, that the DFL does not see the $1.5 billion as “surplus”. The DFL are seeking large increases to education and health & human services. If those increases are not approved, DFL leaders claim that “cuts” will be required to vital services. “I would caution my Republican friends: We have a $1.5 billion surplus,” Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook said. “You will never be able to explain to Minnesotans why you couldn’t get your work done on time when we have plenty of money to fund state government for the next two years.”
The Star Tribune article also quoted Gov. Dayton, “We’ve got some very significant differences on policy matters as well as the budget, and that’s going to be very difficult to resolve.”