GOP unveils budget cuts, mayors and DFL offer swift response


Minnesota Republicans unveiled their “Phase I” plan to reduce Minnesota’s $6.2 billion budget deficit by maintaining unallotment levels of government aid and higher education spending. The plan would direct state agencies to find $200 million in savings. DFL leaders and Mayors RT Rybak and Chris Coleman quickly criticized the plan as hurting the middle class while giving big breaks to corporate CEOs.

The GOP outlined its plan in a statement on Monday.

“We need to prevent automatic spending increases that are included in the state government budget, and passing this budget bill will keep some of state government’s expenditures at current levels,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chair Mary Liz Holberg of Lakeville.

“In light of the large forecasted budget deficit, I believe most cities, counties, and public higher education institutions have been expecting these budget reductions to continue,” said Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Claire Robling of Jordan. “This action should not come as a surprise to them or to the majority of legislators who voted for these reductions last year.”

But that prediction rang hollow with many DFLers.

“The Senate Republicans’ proposal is a one-legged stool of cuts only, with no new reform and no new revenue,” Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak said. “We’ve seen this movie before: they would simply continue a deeply misguided policy that passes the State’s fiscal problems onto communities, is directly responsible for driving property taxes higher statewide and has hampered our ability to keep people safe.”

He said that cuts will lead to layoffs of police and firefighters.

“Minneapolis and communities across Minnesota are willing to do their fair share to help solve the State’s budget crisis and put people to work – but over the last eight years, we’ve already done much more than our fair share,” he added. “Minnesota’s taxpayers have a right to expect more out of the Legislature’s new majorities than just more passing the buck.”

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said the plan would create higher taxes for property owners.

“The Republicans at the Capitol are suggesting we do nothing more than continue the failed policies left behind by our previous Governor which is to shift the funding burden for police, fire and public infrastructure to property owners in cities across Minnesota,” he said.

Gov. Mark Dayton said he isn’t interested in partial solutions to the budget deficit.

“I will not agree to piecemeal cuts and partial solutions eliminating the $6.2 billion deficit in the next biennium,” he said. “I will propose a reasonable, balanced and complete budget solution on February 15th, and I ask the legislature to do the same thereafter, with citizen participation through hearings and very careful consideration of the effects of their decisions on people’s lives.”

Senate DFL Caucus Leader Tom Bakk of Cook said the GOP’s plan amounted to tax breaks for corporations and tax increases for the middle class.

It is telling… to note what is included in the first round of budget cuts offered by the Republican majorities: cuts to state colleges and universities, cuts to property tax relief programs, and cuts to health care for working families,” he said. “Despite the Republican rhetoric around ‘reform’ and ‘redesign,’ it’s clear that an all-cuts budget is going to have a dramatic impact on Minnesota families.”

He added, “It also points to the irresponsibility of the Republican proposal to offer millions of dollars in tax breaks to large corporations during these difficult times. The question is: should we really be raising taxes on working families at the same time we’re cutting taxes on out-of-state corporations?”

DFL Sen. John Marty of Roseville echoed that sentiment.

“Just one week ago, the Republicans introduced their top priority, Senate File 1, which contained as much as $200 million in tax cuts for corporations, including corporations based in other states and countries. Remember that many corporations are currently seeing historic profit margins,” he said. “I question the Republicans’ logic, and the fairness, of cutting taxes for corporations while raising taxes on homeowners and renters who are struggling to make ends meet.”