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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Nolan West (R)

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Legislative update

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Hello from the State Capitol,

A three-way agreement has been reached between Gov. Tim Walz and Democrats in both the House and the Senate regarding how much more taxpayer money to spend this session.

The governor originally proposed a $226 million increase, but House Democrats talked him all the way up to $541 million over the next three years, more than double what the governor pitched just days earlier. The $541 million is what is called a "joint budget target" and will be the amount government spending is increased this year.

This comes after last year's absolutely massive $17.5 billion surplus which has been entirely spent and around $10 billion in taxes have been raised bringing the current state budget to $70 billion. That is a colossal ~40% increase from the previous budget. For reference, the average budget increase for the last 16 years has been between 8-10%.

Despite the historic surplus and those tax increases, our state faces a $1.5 billion budget deficit for the next two-year budget cycle. That deficit will almost certainly grow even larger because that $1.5 number assumed a $4 billion reduction in state spending – something which has never happened. That means, barring any action to address this looming problem now, the deficit could be one of the largest ever when the Legislature reconvenes next January, presenting a lot of difficult choices due to irresponsible billions spent last year.

It is hard to wrap your head around the fact that, in less than one year, reckless, partisan budget decisions have led our state from a historic surplus to a historic deficit. Compared to the $541 million House Democrats propose spending, the governor’s $226 million seems tame. Spending another half a billion dollars when the state already is heading into a deficit is plainly irresponsible.

A stark example of the excess spending is where the state is spending another half billion dollars to build a second legislative office building and renovate the one we already have. When you factor interest into the equation, this project is costing taxpayers at least $730 million. For comparison, the Minnesota Senate Building was constructed within the last decade at $90 million.

In total fairness, there is no arguing the Legislature’s century-old office building needs renovation. For instance, ancient plumbing has repeatedly caused extensive damage to the building, something that is becoming a regular occurrence and is costing taxpayers real money.

However, my biggest issue with this project is how it is being funded. Normally, projects like this require a 60-percent majority vote to pass and borrow money with the full faith and credit of Minnesota – a path which gets us incredibly low interest rates.

But, in order to sidestep taking that vote – and the responsibility that comes with it – the majority resorted to a funding mechanism involving  “Certificates of participation.” These are not the same as certificates of participation awarded to toddlers in T-Ball. This certificate allows the majority to borrow money without voting a vote on the House floor – but this comes at the cost of a significantly higher interest rate. It’s a prime example of the worst form of governing, unnecessarily spending millions of taxpayer dollars just to avoid taking responsibility for their spending.

I don’t want to end this update without offering a solution. There is a path forward: We can pull the plug on this project right now. Unfortunately, it would cost taxpayers $80 million to do so but, considering the Senate’s building cost $90 million, I’m confident this move would save state taxpayers millions of dollars in the long run.

Watch for more from the Capitol soon. Until next time, please stay in touch and have a good weekend.



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