Press Jumps On MN House Speaker For Budget Surplus Claim

  Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt says one of the reasons Minnesota’s predicted budget surplus has increased is higher economic confidence since Republicans won a majority in Minnesota’s House last November. The state revenue forecast released today showed Minnesota will have a $1.86 billion surplus, an $832 million dollar increase from the last forecast. State revenues go up mostly because of increased sales tax revenue and income tax revenue.“Part of this economic confidence is there is balance restored in state government,” Daudt told reporters.Pioneer Press reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger almost immediately pressed Daudt if he “could reiterate that theory… the theory that this forecast is good because Republicans now have the House and there is balance restored to the Capitol? Tell me more about that.”Daudt responded that Minnesota Democrats lost the House because the revenue forecast in November (also a surplus) showed that the policies Democrats put in place the last two years “didn’t help Minnesota’s families and didn’t help Minnesota’s economy.”Daudt said the increase in this latest forecast is mostly because gas prices are low “But I think Minnesota’s economy also understands that we don’t have a runaway government that when we didn’t need to raise any taxes put in place one of the largest increases in state history.”Governor Mark Dayton with Democratic majority in both the House and Senate raised the taxes on the top 2 percent of earners in Minnesota. Dayton was re-elected by a large majority.“I think that people have confidence in that balance has been restored in state government,” said Daudt.More reporter questions and video of the exchange Another reporter asks if Republicans are claiming credit for the portion of the surplus that happened after they took office. Continue Reading

OPINION | Fairer taxes, brighter future

Governor Mark Dayton’s new budget is a blueprint for fairer taxes and a brighter future for Minnesota families.  His reforms pave the way for new jobs, healthier lives and a better-educated workforce. Education and health experts around the state have praised Gov. Dayton’s reforms. Future economic growth depends on these changes. The plan puts a halt to the decade of higher classroom sizes, higher tuition and higher property taxes that put roadblocks in the path of the success of middle-class families. None of these reforms are possible without new revenues. Asking the two percent with highest incomes to begin paying rates closer to the higher rate of taxes paid by middle class families is necessary for Minnesota to improve its future. States with higher top income taxes perform better economically than low-tax states for two reasons. Why? The benefits outweigh the costs. Continue Reading

Q&A with Nan Madden on the state budget

Nan Madden is the director of the Minnesota Budget Project at the MN Council of Nonprofits. Staff there have been busy tracking budget proposals at the legislature and figuring out just how these bills would impact Minnesota the communities the council of nonprofits serve.  Here’s what she had to say about how deep budget cuts would impact Minnesota.    I’ve heard you advocate for a “balanced approach” to the state budget. Where do you see room for compromise at the legislature?[Laughs] This is too big of a problem for an “either, or” solution. We’re going to have to do some things on the revenue side and some on the cutting side. Continue Reading

$2.7M in NRP funds comes back too late for some

Minneapolis neighborhoods are set to receive $2.7 million back from the city, but for some it’s too little, too late.The Minneapolis City Council approved a resolution Friday to free up 21 percent of the $12.68 million in unused Neighborhood Revitalization Program funds that were frozen in December in an attempt to soften property tax increases in the city’s 2011 budget.NRP was established in 1989 to allocate funds from increased property tax revenues for community planning. It allows neighborhoods to prioritize how they want to spend the money.The decision on how to redistribute the freed funds now goes to the NRP policy board in the coming weeks. Jack Whitehurst, a NRP staff member, said one possible scenario is to redistribute the unfrozen money so that all neighborhoods will retain at least 66 percent of their funds.Although Ward 6 Councilman Robert Lilligren said the unfreezing was “good news” for neighborhood organizations, some have already felt the effects of the suspended funds.The Southeast Como Improvement Association, which receives a large portion of its funding from NRP, was forced to move to a smaller office in March as a result of the freeze.James De Sota, neighborhood director for SECIA, said the freed funds won’t have much of an impact on the organization’s day-to-day operations.  As a result of the estimated $110,000 that SECIA lost in the freeze, they won’t be able to support many programs they otherwise would have, he said.”That’s part of the struggle that we have,” De Sota said.Meanwhile, legislation that would force the city to unfreeze the rest of the funds could reach the state Senate floor as early as Wednesday.Sen. Ken Kelash, DFL-Minneapolis, a member of the NRP policy board, said his proposal would allow the program to go forward as originally planned, adding that the neighborhoods most affected by the freeze are the poorest in the city.”Neighborhoods can’t function with the uncertainty that’s being caused by this,” Kelash said. “It’s a matter of fairness.”Because each of the city’s 87 neighborhoods is on a different schedule, some stand to lose more. Those that haven’t contracted any of their funds could lose half of the money, said David Rubedor, director of the city’s Neighborhood and Community Relations Department.The city intended to freeze half of the unused NRP funds for 2012 and 2013 in December, which amounted to $10 million. Continue Reading

OPINION | The debate is not about budgets… It’s a war on workers and unions

Since last month’s issue of the Labor Review, the events in Madison, Wisconsin have put the right to collective bargaining front and center in the news – and have awakened a sleeping giant.Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, using the cover of a budget crisis, sought to strip Wisconsin public employees of their collective bargaining rights.Wisconsinites by the  tens of thousands flooded the State Capitol square and occupied the halls of the Capitol to stand in defense of the rights of teachers and other public employees.The legislation ultimately passed – separated from the Governor’s so-called “Budget Repair Bill” – and as a result, people across the United States have woken up to what’s really going on in state legislatures newly-captured by right-wing majorities.The debate in Wisconsin – and in Minnesota and in other states – isn’t really about budgets at all.Rather than finding balanced solutions to state budget woes, legislators are using the economy as an excuse to advance an irresponsible agenda that puts the big corporate special interests ahead of regular working people.Rather than address state budgets in a responsible way, the legislation offered in response by the newly-elected right-wing majorities has a different purpose: to attack collective bargaining rights and weaken unions.The public outrage that followed Wisconsin’s assault on collective bargaining rights brought more than 100,000 people to a demonstration March 12 in Madison.Busloads and vanloads of union members from Minnesota join the protests there in solidarity.The protests drew not just public employees, but building trades workers, nurses, students and non-union workers, too.Without strong unions, more and more people are remembering, corporate power will have no restraint.Without strong unions, people are remembering, we will go further on the road to becoming a nation without a strong middle class.Without strong unions, people are remembering, workers will not have a voice on the job and will not have the power to bargain for good wages, health care, and a secure retirement.Union membership has dropped to just 6.9 percent of the private sector workforce, thanks to a corporate strategy to export U.S. jobs and maintain weak labor laws. Now the corporate funded attack on workers has shifted to unionized public sector workers — currently 36.3 percent of the public sector workforce.We are in a historic moment. Now is the time for unions to come together in solidarity as we haven’t in years. Now is the time for union members to support affiliation with their central labor bodies and their state federations.Now is the time for union members to stand shoulder to shoulder with all workers who seek a better life. Now is the time. Continue Reading

Letters from the edge: State leaders warn of precipice ahead

Call them “Letters from the Edge,” a flurry of messages last week from state government agency heads and business leaders, summarizing the view from the precipice created by an anti-government, all-cuts response to a $5 billion revenue shortfall. The view is of a shabbier and less fair Minnesota, and also not good for business in the long run.

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No jobs bill, but more than 50 anti-worker bills introduced by GOP in Minnesota state legislature

As the Labor Review went to press, the Minnesota state legislature faced a March 25 deadline for action on major appropriation and finance bills. Members of the new Republican majorities in the Minnesota House and Senate ran in the 2010 election promising jobs. But instead of backing Governor Mark Dayton’s jobs bill, or introducing their own job-creating legislation, members of the Republican majorities have introduced bills cutting public services, attacking public sector workers and their collective bargaining rights, and attempting to grab power from locally-elected school boards by proposing a statewide freeze on teacher salaries and eliminating teacher tenure. Where are the jobs?”I’ve never seen an onslaught and I’ve never seen an assault against good Minnesotans as I’ve seen in this legislature so far,” said Governor Mark Dayton, speaking at Education Minnesota’s annual Representative Convention in Bloomington March 19.Where are the jobs? The Alliance for a Better Minnesota has established a website – – offering a running total reporting the numbers of jobs created by Republican-sponsored legislation. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | Vital Community Programs

Sponsored by Representative Jim Abeler of Anoka, HF128 would cut funding for children and community services, county child support administration, emergency Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA) and adult mental health services—-all necessary services in our community at the moment.  This bill would have lasting negative effects on our communities, but Representative Abeler says in the Session Weekly, that these cuts must happen because, “we are faced with a challenge that’s bigger than anybody ever had with less resources to draw on.” No one can argue that we don’t have fewer resources, however the the budget cuts that Rep. Abeler has sponsored, assist Minnesotans in addressing huge challenges that would rival Minnesota’s budget issues such as dependency, abuse, neglect, poverty, and chronic health conditions.  I urge him to go tell the aged, blind and disabled who are eligible MSA, or the parents across the state who depend on the quick processing of their child support checks that Minnesota’s challenges are bigger than theirs.  Reducing the funding that these programs receive will not help our state. As he proposes cutting $38.5 million dollars to children and community services, I ask him to think about the ways in which these programs contribute to closing the achievement gap.  We have one of the largest disparities between whites and people of color. We cannot become a great state when we are leaving so many intelligent people behind. Continue Reading

The session ends: Pawlenty wins again-or did he?

Governor Tim Pawlenty went before the microphones Monday morning after all-night negotiations with exhausted legislative leaders struggling to meet the required adjournment at Midnight, May 17, and he spent most of his news conference crowing about his victories and the claiming that he (the almighty “we”) had forever altered the culture of this, “the most liberal state in the union,” one that had spent decades of too much government, too much spending and too much taxing. The questions remain: why can’t a veto-proof DFL Senate majority and a top-heavy DFL House majority, 201 legislators cannot prevail in enacting a balanced budget resolution in a time of huge deficits – where fair taxation accompanies severe cuts to programs for the neediest Minnesotans. Why do many advocates believe that it could have been far worse when the governor vetoed dozens of critical bills to assist real people? Despite being told by the Supreme Court that his unallotting last year was beyond the pale of his authority as governor, Tim Pawlenty generally prevailed in enacting the very cuts he tried to make illegally last year. Why? Continue Reading