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Push to send state budget soaring is concerning

Friday, March 31, 2023


By Rep. Joe McDonald

The year was 2011, legislators were negotiating a new state budget for the next biennium and I was among House Republicans insisting and fighting for total spending to not exceed $34 billion.

Republicans had majorities in the House and the Senate that year and were bent on capping state spending at a lower amount than then-Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton was seeking. We were adamant about that $34 billion figure because it matched projected revenue and even wore lapel pins and displayed signs on our office doors with that message. A MinnPost article from the day described it:

“They’ve hung posters on their office doors depicting a canvas sack stuffed with money that says, “$34 billion.” The poster reads, “Not a penny more,” as a hand reaches toward the sack with one final cent. It’s those pennies that the members wear as pins on their lapels.”

Now, fast-forward to today and that $34 billion seems like such a comparatively small number. House and Senate Democrats and Gov. Tim Walz recently announced they plan increase our state’s two-year budget by nearly 40-percent – from $52 billion $71.9 billion – spending the entirety of our $17.5 billion surplus, and more.

In barely more than one decade the state budget will have more than doubled if they get their way. This is beyond irresponsible and puts our state on an even more unsustainable trajectory. It’s no wonder Kevin O’Leary – aka, Mr. Wonderful from the “Shark Tank” TV show – recently described Minnesota as “uninvestible” due to its unfriendly business policies at a time he is partnering with North Dakota to invest $45 million into early-stage companies. As O’Leary said:

“I’m here in Fargo, a few yards away, Minnesota, a town called Moorhead. Twenty-five years ago, both towns had 50,000 people in them. Now, I don’t want to get into politics. I want to get into policy. You’ve got policy in Minnesota. You’ve got policy in North Dakota. Twenty-five years later, look at Fargo — a quarter of a million people, second largest Microsoft campus in the country, massive biotech, pharma businesses, ag-tech, you name it — arts, massive education infrastructure, wildly successful. Go across the bridge, the place looks like Cuba. There’s only 30,000 people living in Moorhead now. It’s a wasteland. What’s the difference? Policy.”

And it’s not getting any better here. In fact, not only do the governor and legislative majorities propose blowing through the budget surplus while increasing the state budget by 40 percent, they also are proposing tax increases. For example, the House Democrat transportation bill raises taxes and fees by at least $4 billion - $1.71 billion in 2024-25, and by more than $2.2 billion in 2026-27. Here is a sampling:

  • ¾-cent metro area sales tax increase
  • 75-cent “delivery tax” (everything from Amazon packages to pizza delivery)
  • License tab fee increases
  • $10 surcharge on license tabs
  • Motor vehicle sales tax increase

Under the Democrat budget, state spending would soar, taxes would be higher and our long-range stability would be undermined. Meanwhile, they refuse to commit to fully ending our state tax on Social Security and are significantly underfunding nursing homes at a time our state faces a long-term care crisis with needs growing every day. A failure to address this problem will result in more nursing homes closing, seniors being denied the care they need and essential care workers continuing to leave the field.

Together with Republican legislators, nursing home providers are calling on the Legislature to take action. We made a motion in the House chamber to declare urgency and vote to approve nursing home funding on Thursday, but the majority blocked that effort.

While I do my best to work across the aisle in a productive manner and refrain from partisanship, this session is beyond the pale and rather concerning. We can and must do better.


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