Two weeks ago, DFL leaders in the House and Senate released their budget targets, and we should be seeing the specific budget bills in each area shortly (in fact, they are overdue at this point). Like Governor Mark Dayton’s budget proposal, the legislative budgets each total around $38 billion.
The House budget prioritizes paying back the school shift (accomplished with a blink-on income tax surcharge on top of the new fourth bracket for high-income earners) and property tax relief (an additional $250 million in local government aid).
The Senate budget, like the Governor’s, leaves the school shift untouched — which would keep the current law of any surpluses going to pay down the shift — and prioritizes property tax relief and economic development.
Both legislative budgets contained a surprise, though, as they each sliced $150 million from the forecast spending in health and human services. Coming after a $1.2 billion cut in the last budget cycle and Dayton’s proposal to raise HHS spending by $128 million, it was a shock to many — including Republicans who have criticized those cuts.
There’s only one part of government where people could die and that’s in our area where the people with disabilities and health care and rural hospitals. I was just really surprised. Nobody saw that coming. — Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka)
While politically convenient to attack DFL cuts to HHS, it makes the budget math for Republicans that much harder. Republicans have rhetorically committed themselves towards paying back the school shift this session.
We should pay the entire shift back right now. – Rep. Kelby Woodard (R-Belle Plaine)
Before any changes to current law, the state finds itself with a $627 million deficit. The remaining school shift is $850 million. That’s a total of $1.477 billion that has to be found — without raising taxes. Yet, Republicans have boxed themselves in by essentially taking K-12 and HHS off the table. Those two areas of the budget represent $26.5 billion of the $36.7 billion in forecast spending for the next biennium.
Which means that those remaining areas of the budget would face the equivalent of a 12.5% across the board cut in order to balance the budget. That includes higher education, public safety, transportation, economic development, and veterans programs. Some of these programs have already taken severe cuts in previous budget cycles.
Does that sound sustainable or realistic? Of course not.
But since Republicans are refusing to put forward their own budget proposal, they are attempting to fly free on their phony baloney budget assertions that we can hold taxes steady and cut our way to prosperity. And they’re trying to avoid having to answer for the cuts that would be required to make their budget math add up.
So the next time your local Republican legislator tries to pass off that spin, ask them for the details of how they make the math work. Just don’t hold your breath waiting for an answer.
[Picture is of Rep. Kelby Woodard]