Lori Sturdevant: GOP-approved budget would lead to a state deficit in 2014-15

  • Article by: LORI STURDEVANT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 30, 2011 - 8:52 AM
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Republican leaders including House Majority Leader Kurt Zellers, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and Sen. Geoff Michel chair of the Jobs and Economic Growth Committee, outlined their legislative agenda for 2011 at a press conference.

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

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For deficit-weary Minnesotans, there’s bad news on a spreadsheet produced on the last day of the just-completed 2011 regular legislative session.

 Despite all the talk about reforming government operations to “bend the cost curve down,” the GOP-approved budget would lead to a $1.2 billion state deficit in 2014-15.

That is down from the $4.4 billion that current laws would require in the biennium after next, according to the numbers prepared by the House’s nonpartisan fiscal staff.

But the GOP budget’s deficit in 2014-15 is slightly larger than the $1 billion that would remain under Gov. Mark Dayton’s original budget plan. That’s in large part because the GOP plan contains business tax cuts that take an ever-bigger bite out of forecasted state revenue.

The upshot: Despite howls about Dayton’s “job-killing” proposal to raise taxes and “draconian” GOP spending cuts, neither side has offered fiscal medicine strong enough to finally cure the patient of its chronic deficits. 

The health and human services numbers are particularly telling. Both DFLers and Republicans agree that slowing inflation in that budget line is imperative, though they differ on how best to do so.

The Republican method involves capping government spending and issuing vouchers for the purchase of private health insurance to low-income people. That method would reduce state spending. But it does little about medical prices or the number of people needing care.

The vetoed GOP health care spending bill cuts a big $1.6 billion from the forecasted health and human services (HHS) base for 2012-13, and would take another $1.1 billion from the forecasted base in 2014-15.

But even under that bill, state HHS spending would be on track for a 16 percent increase in 2014-15.

It goes to show: simply reducing government’s spending on health care does not erase the long-term problem America has with galloping health care costs – not even for government.

That’s why both state and federal governments need to put more effort into changing the way medicine is practiced, to get more health from everybody’s health-care dollar.

 Lori Sturdevant is a Star Tribune columnist and editorial writer.

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