An alternative to high-spending budget targets

To the Editor,

In February it was announced that Minnesota had a historic $17.5 billion surplus—an unprecedented number that made clear just how overtaxed Minnesotans are. A couple weeks ago, Democrats released their high-spending budget targets. While we expected those targets to be spendy, we did not expect for them to eat up the entire surplus and then some. The announced targets amounted to $17.9 billion in additional spending. Our current state budget is about $52 billion, and this year’s budget targets would provide a 33% increase to the overall budget. This is staggering. 

Folks have been clear: tax relief is the priority. Unfortunately, Democrats haven’t listened. Instead of providing the one thing Minnesotans are asking for, they are spending it all and setting up a process for runaway spending in future budgets. Increasing the budget by 33% just isn’t sustainable. This is only going to hurt families who have already been paying high taxes for years, and it doesn’t even take into account the staggering effects of inflation. Instead of spending it all away, Senate Republicans have repeatedly advocated for meaningful and permanent tax relief. If we can’t provide that now, then when can we? 

Notably at the center of budget targets was funding set aside for a bonding bill. Democrats have been relentless in pushing for multiple bonding bills. These bills can’t pass in the Senate without bipartisan support, since they require a 3/5 vote. Republicans have been clear on the issue: we want tax relief for Minnesotans before we consider a bonding bill that puts billions on the state’s credit card. Despite not passing any tax relief, Democrats brought their bill to the floor and acted surprised when it wasn’t passed. They then pulled every Republican bill from their Capital Investment hearings, essentially ignoring the voices and needs of greater Minnesota. Republicans were willing and ready to negotiate, but Democrats instead threw a fit over the matter. Since then, not a single Republican proposal has been heard in that committee. There’s no reason we can’t provide meaningful tax relief alongside a bonding bill that prioritizes investments in our state’s infrastructure. We simply want Democrats to deliver on the tax relief they promised, and then we can discuss bonding. 

As we digested the Democrats’ targets, Republicans answered with alternate budget targets that address bonding, tax relief, and other issue areas left out of the Democrats’ plans. Our proposal shifts a cash bonding target to the general obligation bond target, which allows for needed investments, but also frees nearly $2 billion to be utilized elsewhere. Our plan uses that funding to eliminate the tax on social security, support Minnesotans struggling to find long-term care, and fund agricultural investments. Folks are looking to us to be responsible with taxpayer dollars. Though I still think money should be going directly back to those who paid into it, this is a step in the right direction. We need to reign in runaway spending and focus resources in targeted areas. 

Families across the state have been loudly asking for tax relief that eases the burden on their wallets—what they don’t want are mandates, government expansion, or massive spending increases. We should be responsible with taxpayer money, but instead, Democrats are choosing to grow the size and scope of government to unsustainable levels. We have to do better.

Sen. Paul Utke,

Park Rapids

Legislators vote against school lunch program

To the Editor,

A few days ago, Governor Walz and the DFL led Minnesota Legislature, including a small group of Republican Senators, sent a message loud and clear when they passed the Universal School Meals bill: children and families are a priority in our state! 

With the Universal School Meals law, K-12 students will have access to breakfast and lunch at no cost to them. This law recognizes that the current means-tested approach to qualify for free- and-reduced meals, isn’t meeting the intended needs, and doesn’t account for the multiple scenarios and circumstances of families who do not qualify but struggle to pay out-of-pocket for them. Passage of the Universal School Meals law actually means money back in the pockets of families, easing financial stress. 

Pediatricians, educators, school board members, students and hunger advocates spoke out in favor of this bill in the weeks leading up to the votes, expressing the numerous benefits of universal access to breakfast and lunch, including: improved classroom performance; reduced stress, anxiety and depression for children and adolescents; reduced stigma; improved mental and physical health; and reduced administrative burdens. To put it simply, the law recognizes that until we are meeting the most basic nutrition needs of students, other educational investments will fall short; if students are hungry they are not learning.

With so many benefits to this bill it is hard to comprehend why the three legislators representing Senate District 9, Representative Tom Murphy, R-Underwood and Representative Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley and Senator Jordan Rasmusson, R-Fergus Falls voted against it. We are used to the uber-partisan Backer voting against bills that have DFL support even when they ultimately benefit Senate District 9. But we are just getting to know Murphy and Rasmusson. Rasmussen could have joined other Republican Senators in favor of this bill because, as they said with their votes, it was the right thing to do. He didn’t. If this is the kind of partisan approach, we can expect from Rasmusson, Murphy and Backer then the needs of many children and families in Senate District 9 will go unrepresented! If we can’t count on our legislators to prioritize hungry children and families living on the financial edge, of which there are many in their districts, what can we count on them for? 

Proud of Minnesota, 

Christeen Borsheim,