Budget debate heats up


Since I last wrote about the events at the Capitol, the budget debate has continued to heat up. The February forecast released by the Minnesota Management and Budget Office showed our budget deficit shrinking from $6.2 billion to $5 billion. Governor Dayton then immediately revised his budget. Then just last week, on March 10, the Republicans released their budget targets. These targets aren’t a full and detailed budget by any means, but are a set of spending limits by budget area – education, health and human services, transportation – and so on.

We’ll need to wait for specific budget bills to move through committee to see the details, but just from the targets, it’s clear their budget will be incredibly painful to job growth, our economy, education, and health care.

The Republican budget does not contain any additional funding for education and includes a slight cut. I’m confident that they will target metro schools for possibly drastic cuts, impacting low-income students and students of color. The Republican budget targets also cut health and human services by $1.6 billion, which will undoubtedly cut tens of thousands of low-income Minnesotans off of the health care. Finally, the Republican budget cuts hundreds of millions in local government aid, eliminating LGA for Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth entirely by 2015. This will force skyrocketing property taxes and diminished services. The collective impact of all these cuts on the central cities would be devastating if passed into law. This is a regressive and short-sighted approach to the economic engine of the state.

Furthermore, the Republicans have compounded the problem by setting very tight deadlines. Under the new Republican majority, finance bills must be through the committee process in at least one body by March 25. This will result in huge budget bills being rushed through the process with little to no public input. A pattern is developing of little time being given the public to review bills before they are passed through committee late at night on party-line votes.

On a different note, I was recently appointed by Governor Dayton to serve on the Education Commission of the States. The Education Commission of the States is a nonpartisan organization that brings key leaders – governors, legislators, higher education officials, state school officers, business leaders and others – together to work on education issues. The commission conducts policy research and analysis,  tracks trends, provides advice, and helps facilitate education information and policy discussion across the country.

I’m looking forward to rich and challenging conversations with my fellow commission members. Providing our students with a high-quality education is key to the future prosperity of our state and nation.

During this important legislative session, I encourage you to offer your insight,
feedback, questions and concerns. My office door in St. Paul is always open, or you
can reach me by phone at 651-296-0173 or by email at rep.jim.davnie@house.mn. Thank
you for the honor of serving you in state government.