Clear choices on budget: I want your input

The state budget is the most important issue we will face this legislative session. Already, we are beginning to see clear choices emerge as to how we will go about solving the deficit. I want to make sure you are aware of the key choices we are debating and get your input about how we can move forward responsibly.

Governor Dayton has unveiled his choice — a comprehensive budget solution that includes both cuts and revenue increases to balance our record $6.2 billion budget shortfall. His proposal makes good on his campaign promise to increase funding for education and make Minnesota’s tax system more fair.

Specifically, his plan increased education by about $50 million. This helps meet the challenge of 14,000 more children in our K-12 education system. $30 million is included to make all-day kindergarten available to more Minnesota families. I fully support this funding increase because we know how vital quality education is to our youngest learners.

I also support the governor’s plan to make our tax system more fair. Right now, the wealthiest Minnesotans pay a smaller percentage of their total income in taxes than the rest of Minnesotans. The reason for this is two-fold. First, tax cuts from the Bush years went primarily to the wealthy. Second, during the Pawlenty years local governments were defunded, which forced steep property taxes. In fact, property taxes went up by $3 billion under Pawlenty, which was a 75-percent increase. In the same time period, income taxes for wealthy Minnesotans remained static.

Governor Dayton raises taxes on the wealthiest five percent of Minnesotans in his proposal while keeping taxes the same for 95 percent of Minnesotans. His plan allows property taxes to remain in place while we fund essential investments like education.

It’s important to note that the governor’s budget includes significant cuts to healthcare programs that concern me. There is no easy way to solve a $6.2 billion budget deficit, but I am hopeful that if the economy improves, we can prevent some of his cuts that could impact care for seniors and people with disabilities.

Republicans have offered a far different approach. As opposed to the governor’s balance of cuts and revenue, Republicans promised an all-cuts budget. This would increase property taxes and eliminate critical services that support Minnesota families.

We have not seen the specifics of their all-cuts budget, but our first indication of their priorities were evident in their “Phase 1” budget bill that cut $900 million. Over half their plan relied on property-tax increases. It also included dramatic cuts to child protection services that would weaken our ability to care for our most vulnerable children. Their full all-cuts budget is likely to be considerably worse.

In the meantime, I want to engage the public on these important issues.

I invite you to join me at the following community forums in our District 65A so that we can work together to solve our budget and make Minnesota a better place.

Tuesday, March 22, 5:30-7:30 pm

Topics: Education and Health Care

Special guests: Dr. Brenda Cassellius, Minnesota Commissioner of Education; Sen. John Harrington; Mona Dohman, Commissioner of Public Safety; and Rep. Carlos Mariani, former chair of Education Policy

Rice Street Library, 1011 Rice Street, St. Paul

Saturday, March 26, 10:30 am — 12:30 pm

Topic: Open mike

Special Guests: Rep. Paul Thissen, Minority Leader; Rep. Michael Nelson, former chair of Local Government; and Rep. Alice Hausman, former chair of Capital Investment

Rondo Library, 461 N. Dale St., St. Paul

Rena Moran is the District 65A state representative. She welcomes reader responses to 651-296-5158, rep.rena.moran@house.mn, or 227 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155.