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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Josh Heintzeman (R)

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State Agencies Should Show Us Their Books, Before Making Funding Demands

Wednesday, May 3, 2017
In just a few short weeks the legislature will wrap up the 2017 session, and the bills making up the state budget for the next two years will be sitting on Governor Dayton's desk waiting for his signature. Dayton’s administration proposed massive increases in spending just to continue existing services. In some cases, these proposed increases are over 10%. DNR commissioners have come to Crow Wing County to drum up public support for increases in state spending and fees that they claim are “essential” to keep the DNR’s existing operations going.

It is clear to me that our community wants to see some tax relief, road and bridge funding, and investment in our kids’ educations. I totally agree, and dumping money into state agencies won’t address these needs. Our state government has no problem demanding double-digit increases in the state budget, while the families who provided the tax dollars and our budget surplus haven’t seen their own budgets grow in a very long time.

I've said it before but I believe it bears repeating: real median household income in 1999 was a little over $63,000 per year. Here we are, 18 years later, and were still struggling to get back to that point. Since 1999, inflation has consumed even more of our family budgets, and making our dollars stretch has become difficult, pushing folks into debt often requiring mom and dad to work more hours to make up the difference. Sales tax, tab fees, license fees, registration fees, gas taxes, state income tax, federal income tax, even taxes on your doctor bill: it all adds up fast.

The problem is that, instead of debating each of the agency requests, big government and its proponents default to attacking people who stand in the way of government expansion. If you deny the DNR a license fee increase, you’re anti-sportsman. If you deny Minnesota Pollution Control Agency more authority or ask for any buffer law reforms, you’re anti-environment. There is no respectful discussion for the machine, just allies or enemies.

The House and Senate have worked together and suggested a responsibly-sized budget. We are asking state agencies to do what our families do every day: look for efficiencies and ways to cut costs. Tracking exactly where agency money goes in the legislature is no easy task, which is why we need to hold agencies accountable for their stewardship of taxpayer dollars, before we sign off on massive spending increases.

Your tax dollars are valuable, and I’m working with my fellow legislators to hold government agencies accountable for how they are spent. They need to stop the excuses, and make a serious effort to hold down costs while continuing to provide services with their existing resources. It’s completely reasonable to expect this accountability—but we also need Governor Dayton to hold them accountable as well.

I really hope Governor Dayton and his administration are ready to come to start negotiating with the legislature so we can get our work done. With less than three weeks to go, I’m sad to say he and his commissioners haven’t even started to engage in final budget compromise discussions. House and Senate Republicans passed our bills with plenty of time remaining and met every deadline the Governor has requested. It's time he meet us in the middle, and show that he actually wants to pass a budget that works for Minnesotans, instead of simply vetoing bills he never worked to change.