This legislative session was about choices and priorities. With Minnesota’s future at a crossroads, it was absolutely essential to make calculated, thought-out decisions about how to strengthen the working and middle classes and create jobs in a way that was not only fair, but would also protect the most vulnerable Minnesotans.
New to the legislature, my top priority was balancing our state’s record budget deficit in a fair and equitable way that would encourage broad prosperity. I understood that this could not be accomplished without working in cooperation with members on the other side of the aisle and recognized that not only would they need to compromise, but so would I.
Since entering the legislature, I have aligned my position on solving the budget deficit with Governor Dayton’s proposed solution — imposing a more fair tax system. Currently, the wealthiest Minnesotans pay a smaller percentage of their income in state and local taxes as compared to working- and middle-class Minnesotans.
Many have referred to the governor’s plan as a “tax the rich” strategy; however, that is a misinterpretation. This budget solution would simply ask the top earners in our state to pay their fair share — the amount that middle class families pay.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines compromise as “something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things.” While the governor has made steps towards finding middle ground with the Republican majority by raising taxes on the top two percent of earners instead of the top five percent, Republicans have not moved one inch from their original offer.
In fact, Speaker Zellers has said the GOP budget is their “first, best, and last offer.” I find it incredibly troubling that the Republican majority is unwilling to meet Governor Dayton halfway and is instead choosing to make protecting the wealthiest two percent of Minnesotans its top priority.
In order to protect special interests and the wealthiest two percent of Minnesotans, the Republican budget proposal would have devastating consequences for 98 percent of Minnesotans. Property taxes would increase by $1.3 billion across the state due to local property tax relief cuts, reduction in the renters’ credit, and the elimination of the Market Value Homestead Credit, increasing the burden on homeowners and those with a fixed income.
The GOP budget would grow the size of classrooms by making severe cuts to K-12 education, creating winners and losers for our children with disproportionate cuts across the state and deep cuts to special education. Urban students would see the most devastating cuts as Saint Paul Public Schools would be cut $8.5 million and Minneapolis Public Schools would be cut $9.6 million over the next two years.
Additionally, the GOP budget would make the largest cut to higher education in Minnesota’s history, severely restricting postsecondary opportunities for students across the state.
As a result of drastic cuts to health and human services, approximately 145,000 Minnesotans would lose healthcare coverage and seniors and disabled persons would see a reduction in services that allow them to live independently. Exorbitant cuts to hospitals would increase insurance premiums and eliminate good-paying jobs people in our community rely on to support their families.
In addition to these reductions in services that many in our state rely on, the Republican budget proposal would eliminate more than 30,000 jobs at a time when 200,000 Minnesotans are unemployed.
The Republican majority has made it their priority to represent the interests of the wealthiest two percent of Minnesotans and the special interests that elected them, neglecting the needs and interests of the majority of Minnesotans. Instead of a session characterized by unity, fairness, and enterprise, this year’s session has become emblematic of misplaced priorities and missed opportunities.
These cuts will have devastating impacts on our community. I call on you to contact Governor Dayton and urge him to continue fighting on behalf of hard-working, middle-class families, seniors, the disabled, children, and the disenfranchised. You can contact Governor Dayton by calling his office at 651-201-3400 or by submitting concerns online at http://mn.gov/governor/contact-us/form.
As always I ask for your continued partnership as we move forward with the important work of this legislative session. We work better when we work together.
Rena Moran is the District 65A state representative. She welcomes reader responses to 651-296-5388 or email@example.com.