Republican leaders in the State Legislature held a “birthday party” for Governor Dayton’s budget proposal, which was unveiled one month ago today. It was a full-fledged extravaganza with cupcakes and candles and gift-wrapped talking points aplenty.
Of course, their GOP’s own budget proposal for the biennium is still in the womb with an unknown due date. But one thing is clear: they don’t think taxes should be raised at all to close the state’s projected $1.095 billion deficit for 2014-15.
So let’s take a look at a couple very basic scenarios of what an “all-cuts” solution to the budget deficit could mean.
Each of these scenarios essentially looks at across-the-board cuts (it’s unlikely that an actual GOP proposal would work this way, but we’re just trying to illustrate some of the potential impacts). Keep in mind as you’re looking at these options that the baseline budget for the state does not include inflation, so you can add an additional $890 million to the cuts — effectively meaning that an “all-cuts” approach would cut nearly $2 billion in real spending from the budget.
The first scenario would hold K-12 education harmless from the budget cuts. Choosing this option would require an across-the-board cut of 5.5% to the other areas of the budget in order to achieve $1.1 billion in savings. Holding K-12 harmless under this option could take two forms. Either you could leave K-12 untouched (no cuts and no school shift payback) or you could play an accounting shell game and cut funding by 5% and apply that to the shift balance (and $824 million cut/shift payback).
The second scenario (as suggested by a commenter here) would apply a 5% cut across-the-board and use any excess balance to pay back part of the school shift. Such a scenario, would generate a $667 million shift payback, but the 5% cut to K-12 would be larger than the shift payback, resulting in a net $92 million cut to K-12.
Certainly, either option would continue squeezing some waste and inefficiency out of state government, but it would also have very real other impacts. Cuts of this magnitude in Health and Human Services would limit the ability of those programs to service folks in need. Cuts of this magnitude to higher education is going to make college less affordable for students. Cuts of this magnitude to public safety are going to result in layoffs in our corrections and court systems. Cuts in aid to local governments are going to put further pressure on property taxes. Efforts to stop invasive aquatic species would be placed at risk. Programs to encourage new business start-ups would be weakened.
There are plenty of things that could be reasonably objected to in the Dayton budget. But there’s plenty of reasonable objections to an “all-cuts” approach, too. The GOP leadership owes it to the state to put their choices on the table and let us see what their priorities are.
[Image courtesy All About Cupcakes]