When Minnesota Republicans run for office, things like “cutting wasteful spending” and “efficient government” are often promised. Generally, they are elected to serve as budget watchdogs to Democrats’ tendency as Keynesians to push higher state spending.
State spending has increased from $30 Billion in the 2011-2011 general fund biennial budget to $39.6 Billion in the current biennium. The “All Funds” budget is a whopping $71.3 Billion currently.
Today, Governor Dayton is proposing a $43 billion budget for the next biennium which includes a promise for government-funded child care for all of the state’s 4-years-olds. Dayton recently said of the Universal Kindergarten/PreK program, “Parents are working, they know where their kids are, and they know they’re getting quality learning experiences,” Dayton said. “Why wouldn’t we want to extend that to 4-year-olds?”
Republicans have hinted that they’ll also spend more in the childcare department touting a new “Toddler Tax Credit” as well as expanding PreK “scholarships” for low income families.
With a nearly $2 Billion state budget surplus on the table– which The Capitol Report recently attributed to the 9.85% top income tax bracket for Minnesotans with incomes higher than $154,950– it’s doubtful that state spending will be reduced. However, where the Republicans start budget negotiations with super-spender Dayton will set the tone for the rest of the legislative session. The Governor got help from the GOP back in 2011 when then Speaker Kurt Zellers started with a $34 Billion figure (up from the previous budget of $30 Billion.) Dayton pitched $38 Billion and they settled at $35 Billion after a government shutdown.
As Minnesota political watchers wait for the House budget to be released, a good way to predict the meat of the proposal is to look at what current GOP leadership told voters when they ran for office….Most espouse moderate views on spending.
Speaker Kurt Daudt, 31A said– when he announced his first run for Representative in 2010: “In the current economic climate, we need to cut spending not increase taxes. By his 2014 run he stayed away from spending and instead committed to “balance the state budget without raising taxes.”
Majority Leader Joyce Peppin, 34A promises on her current campaign website to “Spend smart and prioritize to address critical needs in education, health care, transportation and public safety.”
Asst. Majority Leader Rep Tim Sanders, 37B said during his 2012 run, “Our state government must also reduce its spending and achieve savings by driving efficiencies though reforming and updating how the state delivers its services to the taxpayers.”
Asst. Majority Leader Dave Baker, 17B, is brand new to the House and ran a campaign targeting Minnesota’s massive budget growth & tax hikes specifically calling out welfare spending. Per his campaign website, “Assistance benefit and social programs are the fastest growing portion of our state budget and now the largest expense. This area is growing at a rate that we cannot sustain and is putting a heavy strain on our state finances.”
Asst. Majority Leader Ron Kresha, 9B promises “A structural balance between revenue and expenses can be accomplished by looking for long-term solutions that include tax reform, closing loopholes, and eliminating wasteful spending.”
Asst. Majority Leader Kathy Lohmer, 39B promised to “Keep government growth equal with economic growth.”
Asst. Majority Leader Debra Kiel, 1B has stated that “Minnesota should be fiscally conservative, always operating within its means and with a balanced budget.”
Asst. Majority Leader Chris Swedzinski,16A commits to “Prioritizing government spending and investing your tax dollars wisely”
What the campaign promises of House leadership mean for Minnesota taxpayers will soon be revealed when their budget is released in the coming days.