Flanked by a bevy of legislators from their own party, House and Senate Republican leaders said the majority in both chambers would stand united against any tax increase proposal offered by Gov. Mark Dayton as a solution to a remaining multi-billion budget deficit.
“We were elected in November, in historic majorities in both the House and the Senate … to hold the line on taxes and spending in the state of Minnesota,” said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch (R-Buffalo). “That’s what we came here to do, and we intend to do that.”
That reaffirmation came in response to Dayton’s announcement that he was willing to meet Republicans “halfway” with $1.8 billion in negotiated spending cuts and $1.8 billion in additional tax revenues that would come from the creation of a fourth tier income tax rate for “the richest 2 percent of Minnesotans.”
“We agree that repayment of the previous Governor and Legislature’s shift in school aid payments must be postponed,” Dayton wrote in a letter to legislative leaders. “That leaves us with a remaining deficit of $3.6 billion.”
Dayton’s newly proposed top tax tier would see a tax increase on households that make $305,000 or more and on single individuals who make at least $179,000. He said it was a good proposal for 98 percent of Minnesotans, and a reasonable one for the state’s highest earners given the economic circumstances. He called the proposed Republican “all cuts budget” barbaric and draconian.
“An all cuts budget has just a terrible effect on Minnesotans all over this state, on our quality of life, our future, and I am not going to agree to it,” Dayton said.
Republicans said they have been open in their process of developing the budget and that there is plenty of room to negotiate a solution with the governor over the next week, as long as it is not one that involves “job-killing tax increases.”
“Whether it’s a half-tax increase or a whole-tax increase or a quarter-tax increase, if it forces one Minnesota job provider to leave our state because of over-taxation, it’s a bad idea,” said House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove). He expressed confidence that the Legislature would pass a balanced budget before session is adjourned. But House and Senate minority leaders did not express that same confidence should Republican leaders not be willing to seek compromise with the governor’s proposal.
“We need to make difficult choices and cuts,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls). “No one in this Capitol denies that’s the fact, but it is simply wrong for Republicans to choose a special session and to inflict unneeded damage on the most vulnerable Minnesotans in order to protect special interest friends and the richest 2 percent of Minnesotans.”