GOP is asking the wrong question

I agree with Rep. Paul Kohls that living within one's means is an important part of Minnesota state government (Counterpoint, March 26). The state Constitution requires that we balance the budget every two years, so every two years we live within our means, and we will continue to do so.

Living within our means is not the right question; the question is what choices we make to do so. Kohls suggests using one tool -- cuts -- to balance the budget. The approach means decimating public education, closing nursing homes and hospitals, and shutting down one, maybe two, state prisons -- costing our state thousands of jobs, including 12,000 teachers. These are harsh realities for Minnesota to face, but it is important to know the facts of the situation to find good solutions.

The fact is that state policies over the last decade have not left enough revenue coming into the general fund to ensure Minnesota's way of life. The administration has held tightly to the cuts-only solution, masking the true budget impacts. Property taxes have increased by more than $3 billion and fees by almost $2 billion. Thousands have been kicked off health care, schools have increasingly turned to local property owners to fund the basics, and tuition at state colleges has increased by more than 70 percent.

Like the House and Senate, the governor uses one-time federal recovery money to soften the impacts of the deep recession on our schools and health care systems. He also proposes new revenue in the form of $1 billion borrowed from future generations, to be repaid with $600 million of interest.

So, the question we need to ask isn't whether we need new revenue. It is what type of new revenue is the most responsible, fair and honest?

We have been listening to Minnesotans -- more than 10,000 attended statewide meetings, thousands more sent budget ideas to our House website, and every member of the House has been in touch with their constituents to get important feedback on how to solve this deficit.

Overwhelmingly, we have been told to protect the Minnesota way of life. Prioritize education. Create jobs. Ensure safe communities. Reform health care. Importantly, make sure we pay for it in a way that is fair and maximizes every possible efficiency.

The House budget proposal is responsible for today's Minnesotans, and tomorrow's. The House recommends substantial cuts, the heaviest to state government. But we are being honest with Minnesotans when we tell them that cuts alone will do long-lasting harm.

We are focused on tomorrow. Our ancestors kept the promise of the Minnesota way of life for us, and we will do the same for our children.