Since I rolled out my “Plan C” budget yesterday, one of the main threads I’ve gotten in terms of comments (from John Brunette in the comments and from others via e-mail) has been from folks asking about the spending, and is it necessary to increase spending by that much?
So I went back to the numbers and came up with a budget that was tighter on spending, while still paying back a sizable chunk of the remaining K-12 school shift — as that has been a key Republican criticism of the Dayton budget. Below is a chart detailing what I came up with — “Plan D”, if you will. Included is a $275 million payback of the shift (1/4 of the remaining amount, what I would consider the minimum level to be considered “sizable”), and basically holding every other area of the budget flat. Holding those departments flat essentially functions as about a 2% budget cut, since inflation is not factored into baseline spending forecasts by state law.
Adding that spending means there’s a $1.372 billion deficit to make up. From a revenue perspective, then, I removed all B2B sales taxes and reduced the amount of income tax relief by $80 million.
In some respects, Plan D is preferable to Plan C. Removing the business sales taxes while maintaining 87% of the income tax cut makes the overall tax package in Plan D more progressive.
Here are some of the things that may well be lost by making these choices, though.
- Optional all-day kindergarten
- Additional funding for special education and early childhood programs
- Wider availability of state college tuition grants, at a time when public university tuition has doubled in the last decade
- Programs to expand apprenticeships and internships for MnSCU students
- Improved aquatic invasive species management
- Up to 270 employees in the Department of Corrections
- Expanded care options for high-needs children on state health care plans
- Increased funding for investment and job creation funds
And there are other things that just go unaddressed, like the basic K-12 education formula lagging inflation or funding MnSCU and the University of Minnesota at late-1990s levels despite the fact that those two systems serve over 50,000 more students than they did 15 years ago.
It’s easy to just wave one’s hand away at these issues and criticize proposals that make the hard choices. Nothing is easier than saying you’re opposed to new taxes. Those who feel that taxes should not be raised, then, have a duty to tell us what they would do instead. Minnesota Republicans say that taxes shouldn’t be raised and the school shift repaid. That means they favor making at least $1.372 billion in cuts from the current forecasted spending. It’s time for them to avoid the easy way out, step to the plate, and name those cuts.