Republican legislative leadership unveiled its budget targets on Thursday. Most government departments would see a cut under the budget proposals from the last two years, while a few, such as education and health and human services, would see a modest increase from the last biennium. Democrats immediately blasted the proposal, which will spend $34 billion in the 2012-2013 biennium – $3 billion less than the budget proposed by Gov. Mark Dayton.
Republican leadership set targets for committees as they begin to create the budgets for their respective policy areas. The numbers account for the difference in spending from the last budget cycle and don’t account for the automatic increases that most state agencies build into their budgets.
In the Senate, education would see an 2.5 percent increase with an accounting shift that puts off paying schools.
There’s a 16 percent cut to higher education proposed as well as an 11.4 percent cut to agriculture and rural economics. Energy, environment and commerce would see a 29 percent cut compared to last budget cycle, and jobs and economic growth would get a 47 percent cut. Sixteen percent is proposed to be cut from transportation, while other cuts will hit the judiciary and public safety (3.5 percent), state government and veterans (53 percent) and tax aids and credit spending (9.6 percent).
Debt service and capital projects would see a 35 percent increase, and the Senate proposal would include a 5.9 percent increase to Health and Human Services.
House leadership posted a similar level of cuts and increases.
The budget targets prompted strong reactions from many quarters.
“Much of it is continuing down the road of failed policies of Gov. Pawlenty,” Minority Leader Tom Bakk said at a press conference Thursday afternoon. “With $1.4 billion in additional cuts over what [Gov. Dayton] proposed, what is that going to look like?”
Bakk predicted three impacts if the Republicans’ budget became law: property taxes will go up, tuition will go up, and health care is going to be more expensive and cover less Minnesotans.
“My hope is that they give the public the opportunity to participate in this process,” Bakk said.
“Middle class families looking for relief from sluggish job growth and regressive property taxes will be sorely disappointed with the Senate Republicans’ budget targets,” said Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson in a statement. “Draconian cuts to job creation tools and our colleges and universities are job killers that take Minnesota backwards.”
The Republican Party of Minnesota praised Republican legislative leadership for the budget targets.
“Republican leaders in Minnesota are working hard to reign in auto-pilot spending increases and to make government live within its means,” said party chair Tony Sutton. “The budget targets released today protect essential services, including education, public safety, the judiciary, and health and human services, all without raising taxes.”
Gov. Mark Dayton’s office was less enthusiastic about the targets.
“Earlier today the governor reiterated his belief that budgets are a reflection of values and priorities and the decisions we make about the budget affect people’s lives,” Katharine Tinucci, Gov. Mark Dayton’s press secretary, said in a statement. “Based on the spreadsheets the GOP put out today it appears those values and priorities are cutting education, cutting health care, cutting jobs, cutting veterans, and raising property taxes. These cuts will hurt school children, tax payers, businesses and seniors.”