It’s been omnibus bill week here at the Capitol, as the Republican majority has released several of their major budget bills dealing with education, taxes, health and human services, state government, transportation and so on and passed them out of committees. Next week all these bills will come to the House floor for action there. The common theme throughout all these bills is targeting the central cities for drastic service cuts and skyrocketing tax increases.
First, the omnibus tax bill from the GOP completely eliminates local government aid to Minneapolis by 2014. Local government aid is used to pay for police, fire, filling potholes and repaving roads, snowplowing – services that we rely on every day. The eliminating of local government aid will result in drastic service cuts and skyrocketing property taxes – to the tune of $1.4 billion over three years. As Mayor Rybak pointed out, just the $80 million cut proposed for this year – the cut gets worse each year until complete phase out in 2014 – is equivalent to: twice the annual cost of filling potholes and paving streets, the cost of salary and benefits for 800 police officers – nearly the entire force, and is larger than the Fire Department, 911 and criminal prosecution combined. Making up for all these cuts through property taxes would be catastrophic for our taxpayers and our city’s economy.
The attack on the metro continues in the omnibus K-12 education bill. The bill completely eliminates integration funding for the metro and even goes so far as to eliminate the rule requiring integrated schools in Minnesota rolling us back to a time before Brown v. Board of Education. This would cost Minneapolis schools over $13 million each year. The achievement gap is the biggest challenge facing our schools, and this bill seeks to eliminate one of the very tools to address this
The bill also includes a voucher program, which has to be seen for what it is – an abandonment of our responsibility to prepare all of our Minnesota’s children for college, career, and citizenship. Overall, this omnibus bill reverses a 30 year policy of funding education based on student needs and makes our complex education funding system even more complex, less transparent and less accountable. Minneapolis Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson released a letter on the damage this education bill would do to our public schools.
In the transportation bill, we’ve also seen the majority look to dramatically cut funding for metro transit. According to the Met Council, these cuts would result in fare increases, fewer routes, and less service to those who need it most.
Fundamentally, we’ve seen a concerted effort by the Republican majority to target the central cities for deep, dramatic cuts followed by huge tax increases. When Republicans look at the metro and only see an area where they don’t get any votes, I see an area that is the economic engine of the state. These cuts are politically motivated and would dramatically undermine our quality of life in the urban core. It’s terribly unfortunate, but also short sighted as the state doesn’t benefit from
a deteriorating core.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for the honor of serving you in state government.