Where’s the Truth in the Budget Debate?

Written by Jeff Johnson on June 22, 2011. Posted in General

No one is proposing a spending cut

How is it that the debate over the Minnesota budget has become so blatantly dishonest over the past couple months?

All I hear and read is that our choices are between an “all cuts” budget from the Republican legislature that slashes spending and cuts to the bone versus a “balanced approach” from Governor Dayton that combines deep spending cuts with increases in taxes on the wealthy.

The analysis is simply false…It’s a lie.

In reality, both the Republican proposal and the Governor’s proposal would increase the budget in the coming biennium over the past biennium, it’s just that Dayton’s proposal would increase the budget exponentially more than the Republicans.

The proposed Republican budget would increase biennial general fund spending by about 6%; Dayton’s proposed budget would increase biennial general fund spending by about 15%.

When I explain that to my neighbors or my fellow baseball parents, they are incredulous, as everything they’ve heard is that the Republican budget would slash spending to depths never envisioned before in Minnesota.

Some of them are also wary of my assertion, as most taxpayers know that numbers can be manipulated easily to support claims of increases, decreases or debilitating cuts.

The DFL, in fact, attempts to skew the numbers a bit by arguing that the one-time federal stimulus dollars the state received in the last biennium should count toward the permanent spending base when assessing the difference in budgets. This argument represents a sadly irresponsible attitude toward government spending as everyone recognized that stimulus money would not be renewed and was intended for building projects, not ongoing programs.

Nonetheless, even if we count stimulus funding and use the DFL method of budget calculation, the Republicans’ proposed budget IS STILL LARGER than last biennium (and in fact the largest budget in the state’s history) and no one is arguing otherwise.

What have we become as a society when an undisputed increase in the state’s budget is seen as heartless, unthinkable and indecent just because the increase isn’t big enough?

The Governor’s proposal represents about a 15% general fund increase (or around 10% if we use the skewed DFL method). And even that level of spending, according to the Governor and Democrats, is almost too little to bear.

How do we propose to survive financially as a state in the long-term when even 10% to 15% budget increases are viewed as painful “cuts” in government spending?

This isn’t about who has compromised more, or who made the last offer or which side is more averse to a government shutdown. The honest question about our current situation is very simple:

Is a 6% increase in spending over two years enough?

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