Governor balances budget ‘on the backs of struggling families,’ coalition says


Governor Tim Pawlenty’s proposed state budget will push more families into poverty and fails to address Minnesota’s long-term economic issues, a new coalition said Tuesday.
The Invest in Minnesota Campaign, supported by labor, faith and nonprofit organizations, called on lawmakers to increase revenue to maintain critical services.

Pawlenty’s plan to balance the budget “is clearly happening on the backs of families that are struggling,” said Brian Rusche, executive director of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition.

“All of the churches in the downtown area have experienced an explosion of people coming to their doors for immediate assistance,” said the Rev. Doug Mitchell, associate pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis. “To continue a public policy that requires citizens to beg for their basic human needs is simply unacceptable.”

The Invest in Minnesota Campaign outlined the following flaws in the governor’s proposed budget:

• Reneges on the state’s commitment to extend health insurance to over 20,000 children.

• Hurts the state’s ailing economy by cutting thousands of jobs and disinvesting in
higher education and core services.

• Fails as a real solution to the state’s budget problems because it leaves a $1.7 billion
projected deficit into the next biennium when real costs of services are included.

At the same time, a proposed one-eighth of one-cent reduction in the sales tax – amounting to about $10 a year for many people – will be “irrelevant” to middle- and low-income families who have seen basic services like health care, transit and education gutted in the budget, Mitchell said.

The same people who have sacrificed through higher taxes and fewer services are being asked to sacrifice again, coalition members said.

“The top earners in Minnesota pay about 8 percent of their income in state and local taxes. Everyone else pays 12 percent,” said Dane Smith, president of Growth & Justice, a five-year old progressive economic think tank. “It’s time to ask other folks to take their turn.”

“Minnesota is losing jobs and the governor proposes to cut jobs with his budget proposal,” said Steve Hunter, secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO. “The governor’s budget proposal is flat out irresponsible. It hurts people, hurts the economy and does not address the revenue shortfall with a revenue solution.”

Marcia Avner, director of public policy for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, said, “We think this is a very serious time.” She said the Invest in Minnesota campaign will be “educating, alerting and mobilizing” people through the 2008 elections and into the 2009 legislative session.

“We don’t need to take more families off the track to success,” Avner said. “Our elected officials need to find real solutions to the revenue shortfall. The Invest in Minnesota Campaign will engage the public in a search for solutions to the revenue shortfall during this legislative session and the months ahead.”

For more information
See the Invest in Minnesota website,