In a pitch to show voters they are off to a scrappy start, Legislative Republicans unveiled a proposal Tuesday to cut $1 billion from the state budget.
Republicans want to slice more than $460 million in aid to local governments and nearly $200 million from higher education. The proposal includes $71 million in trims from health and human services and another $200 million in reductions to state agencies.
“We need to prevent automatic spending increases that are included in the state government budget, and passing this budget bill will keep some of state government’s expenditures at current levels,” said House Ways and Means Committee chairwoman Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville.
Just three weeks into the legislative session, the proposal comes a month before DFL Gov. Mark Dayton must unveil his proposal to patch the state’s projected $6.2 billion budget hole.
DFL legislative leaders criticized the proposal as a rehash of old ideas from former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
“Despite big talk about changing the way business is done at the Capitol, the Republican majority is proposing to continue Tim Pawlenty’s failed policies of the past,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. “These policies will continue the squeeze on middle-class families through higher tuition rates and higher property taxes.”
The Republican proposal takes about $840 million in emergency, temporary budget cuts Pawlenty imposed two years ago and extends them another two years. The $200 million in state cuts – a number GOP leaders say could change -- are the only new cuts.
Officials from local communities -- which have already endured millions in cuts to local-government aid -- didn't warm to the proposal.
“We are deeply concerned that politicians who are calling for ‘reforming LGA’ have started the legislative session without any substantive policy conversation, but rather a blanket proposal that is simply another cut," said Nancy Carroll, mayor of Park Rapids and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities. "This proposal has zero reform and is just more of the same: a continued shift in the tax burden onto middle class families and businesses and deep cuts to the communities they call home.”
Even if Dayton signs off on the proposed cuts, it still leaves another $5.1 billion in reductions.
Republicans have insisted they can balance the state budget solely through cuts. Dayton and other Democrats have said a tax increase is needed to balance the budget fairly.
The new DFL governor campaign on a pledge to raise taxes on Minnesota’s highest earners, an idea Republicans vigorously oppose.