Minnesota’s budget solution is somewhere in the middle


We let Governor Pawlenty try it his way. After refusing to compromise with the Legislature on a plan of spending reductions and revenue increases, the Governor began a series of unilateral budget cuts in an effort to balance the state’s books all by himself. Some of the areas on his chopping block this past July were health insurance for 30,000 of the most vulnerable Minnesotans, money for property tax relief in our communities, and a billion dollar IOU to school children that may or may not be paid back.

Yes, we tried it his way. The Governor got his “no new taxes” wish and tried to balance the budget on spending cuts alone. On Wednesday, we learned his conservative strategy didn’t work. Despite cutting off state investment exactly when Minnesotans need it, the state is $1.2 billion in the hole. That hole isn’t getting any smaller; if current projections hold, the 2012-2013 budget will be $7.4 billion in the red.

So why is there a deficit? Didn’t the Governor “balance” the budget? Sadly, increased costs were only part of the budget problem. Minnesota doesn’t have enough tax revenue coming in to do what our residents expect government to do.

That’s why it’s time for all state policymakers to come to the middle. We have tough decisions to make and everyone will have to sacrifice so we can move forward. People who depend on Government help might see a lower level of service for a time. Conversely, those who have benefited from our economy should be prepared to contribute more financially to soften the spending reductions. We need to make strategic investment decisions that stimulate job creation and get government costs under control.  We need to re-examine our tax structure to both increase revenue and fairness. We need a balanced approach.

Thankfully, most progressives in the Legislature understand we need a shared sacrifice of spending reductions and tax increases to move Minnesota forward. Hopefully, Governor Pawlenty and his conservative allies will take the ideological gloves off and come to the middle.