Game of Budgets

MN Senate Republicans make everything so much more difficult. The Minnesota budget game has become a challenge to logic and the MN Senate defies it at every turn.

MPR put together a summary of the 4 main issues that highlight this partisan divide. Let’s take a closer look:

The Provider Tax

This is a tax on medical providers that helps to pay for MinnesotaCare and allows broader coverage for low to middle income people. It has worked well while it has been in place but a sunset provision was placed on it which expires at the end of this year. Democrats want it extended to keep health care afloat; Republicans want it to die.

The Senate Republicans keep insisting on this ridiculous argument that extending the provider tax is a “tax increase”. At the same time, they are telling us that “fees” on electric vehicle usage is NOT a tax. See why logic escapes us here?

The budget currently in place already has the provider tax figured in and the health access fund that has that money is constantly raided by legislative budget balancers looking for free money. The Democratic plan extends the provider tax and works to set up an expansion of MinnesotaCare as a public option. Republicans don’t seem to have a good reason that argues against that plan other than “no new taxes” – which has become a meaningless phrase as we will point out later. But let’s move on for now.

Gas Tax

Governor Walz has proposed a 20 cent increase in the gas tax. He called for it all through his campaign. He got elected. He proposed it in his initial budget and he has continued to champion it as a means to catch up on a backlog of MNDOT road projects all over the state – urban and rural alike.

Sounds logical to everyone except Republicans. The citizens of the state have known this was coming all along and they still wanted Walz to be governor.  Yes, this will make Minnesota one of the top gas tax states, but it should be considered that we are the 4th highest in road miles while taking into account weather that hastens road wear. MNDOT has been pushing projects back and ignoring upgrades to patch together their own budget.  Meanwhile Republicans want to use a moderate budget surplus, the aforementioned electric vehicle “fees” and some existing sales tax for car products.

Here is another illogical Republican method. Why is it assumed that taking existing sales taxes that pay for other items in the budget, shifting it to road maintenance, will NOT cause a hole in another budget area? The logic of Republican budgeting never explains that fact of life.

Other Tax Increases

The Democratic budget has some other tax increases….mostly corporate and business taxes which will help fund needed education areas. Of course, the Republican defenders of corporations and the “no new taxes” budget obstacle are completely against this. Which means that Republicans have minimal education increases while the Democrats try to catch up on numerous neglected education areas with much larger increases in funding. Senate Republicans feel they are doing us a “favor” to have any education increases at all.

Most of these other taxes are really a means to conform state tax law with Federal tax law. The Trump tax bill has caused a mess in this regard and needs to be fixed. The Republican bill acknowledges this situation by doing some of the same things, but then apply tax breaks for their corporate friends to offset it.

Again, logic escapes all of it.

Spending

Of course, all of this culminates in how much spending we will have for the next biennium. Democrats are talking about serious increases to MNDOT and our education spending.

Which, of course is vehemently opposed by the Republican “no new taxes” method. Here is what Senate Majority Leader Gazelka says:

Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said there are several pots of money that already exist in the state to spend more on education and public safety, including the state’s $1 billion budget surplus, as well as the more than $2 billion in state budget reserves.

The state reserves are supposed to be utilized during budget deficits. Gazelka wants to raid that fund while we have a surplus. Really? More Republican logic? The very fact that Gazelka suggests using that money would seem to indicate that their budget proposal does NOT have enough funds for sustainability.

I don’t know if you have noticed the comparisons on Twitter of what school districts would receive under the Democratic and Republican plans. The differences are huge. Democrats would provide schools with 10, 15, or even 20 times the money that Republicans budget for. Maybe schools wouldn’t have to have so many levy requests if their state allotment met more of their needs? Logical?

Logic seems to side only with the Democrats. As usual the governing philosophy of Republicans has nothing to do with logic or even meeting the real needs of our state. The GOP is always willing to keep kicking the can (which is seriously dented by now) down the road, while education and road repair continue their patch work methods of funding.

Seriously, the Minnesota Senate majority, which, incidently wasn’t on the 2018 ballot, is always going to be an obstacle to budget logic as long as they hold that majority.

Change that in 2020….please.