Union leaders offer solutions to grim state budget forecast


In the wake of Wednesday’s grim state budget forecast, labor leaders urge lawmakers to put aside politics and fairly raise the revenue needed to provide public services. A forecast released by Minnesota Management and Budget indicates the state faces a projected $1.2 billion deficit in the 2010-11 biennium, and potentially a $5.43 billion shortfall in the 2012-13 biennium.

Approximately 70 percent of the shortfall is due to lower-than-projected income tax receipts. According to MMB, state wages make up about 75 percent of the state’s income tax base; however, wages are on track to decline by 5.5 percent in 2009 compared to 2008.

‘Stop politicking’

Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson said, “It’s time for Governor Pawlenty to stop politicking and get busy putting Minnesotans back to work.” Knutson pledged that the statewide labor federation she heads will lead the way to family-supporting jobs for out-of-work Minnesotans.

“We’ve got eight unemployed Minnesotans competing for every available job,” Knutson said, “and the governor stands ready to throw more people out of work. He has stripped the state of its resources, ignored the recommendations of both private and public sector experts, savaged existing efforts to create jobs-and not surprisingly, tax revenues are down. Governor Pawlenty must do better.”

Knutson urged Pawlenty to join the Minnesota AFL-CIO in working to create jobs for Minnesota’s unemployed and underemployed workers. “The governor needs to support a hefty bonding bill-one that is well over a billion dollars, and he needs to get past his aversion to raising revenues if he’s going to pull the state out of this mess,” she said.

“Raising revenue fairly must be part of the solution,” said Eliot Seide, director of AFSCME Council 5, the state’s largest public employee union. “The state could raise $3.8 billion by requiring the wealthiest 10 percent of Minnesotans to pay their fair share of income taxes.

“We need to restore tax fairness if we want to remain an above-average state. No one ever cut their way to greatness. Great states invest in education, health care, transportation, and good jobs that can support a family.”

Cutting management waste

Members of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, the state’s second-largest public employee union, have identified “millions of dollars in waste that included out-of-state travel, uncollected revenue and the Pawlenty administration’s bloated management,” said MAPE Executive Director Jim Monroe.

“The result of MAPE shining the light on certain administration practices was $10 million trimmed from out-of-state travel and the Department of Revenue stepping up collection efforts on money owed to our state. These are positive steps, but more action is needed to cut waste to preserve vital services for Minnesotans.

“Governor Pawlenty, with Minnesota facing a $1.2 billion state budget deficit for the remainder of this biennium, we ask that you put your presidential aspirations on hold, focus on the job you were elected to perform, sit down with us and work together to resolve the state’s ongoing economic crisis.”

Knutson said the Minnesota AFL-CIO has begun its own efforts to expand jobs in Minnesota, and will continue that work throughout the upcoming legislative session. Already underway:

1. The Minnesota AFL-CIO is teaming up with its community affiliate, Working America, to hold a workers roundtable on jobs for Minnesota’s future. The roundtable is being held in conjunction with Thursday’s Presidential Roundtable on Jobs in Washington, D.C. The Twin Cities event is set for 10:30 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 3, at Working America’s offices, 4407 E. Lake St., Minneapolis.

2. The Minnesota AFL-CIO is working with community partners and key legislative staff to outline wage subsidy legislation similar to the legislation that helped to create jobs and pull Minnesota out of the Reagan recession in the early 1980s.

3. The Minnesota AFL-CIO will brief legislators and gubernatorial candidates on its 2010 priorities: expanding Minnesota’s good, family-supporting jobs and raising the revenue needed to make Minnesota work.

This article includes information from Session Daily, a publication of the Minnesota House.