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Rural cities rally against amendment - The Bemidji Pioneer

February 21, 2012

Bethany Wesley, Bemidji Pioneer, February 14, 2012

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is fighting a proposed constitutional amendment that would require a supermajority vote from legislators to adopt any tax increase.

Such a requirement would hurt rural cities, argued Tim Flaherty, an attorney and lobbyist for CGMC, during a recent visit to Bemidji. 

The proposal would require a supermajority vote, or three-fifths support, from both the House and Senate, to enact any tax increase. Because it would be more difficult to raise taxes, legislators would more often turn to cutting local government aid and other programs to balance the budget, Flaherty said.

If the state were to cut K-12 education funding, school districts would be forced to rely more on referendums, he said, which usually hurts rural communities because districts in smaller, property-poor districts can’t raise taxes easily. That would create school inequality, Flaherty said. Additionally, funding cuts to the state education systems would result in higher tuitions and cuts to funding for nursing home could lead to closures and higher unemployment. “It’s going to hurt greater Minnesota more than the rest of the state,” Flaherty said.

Local legislators do not appear eager to adopt the proposal.

“I don’t have much support for that,” said Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji.

Sen. John Carlson, R- Bemidji, said legislators need to be “very careful” in approaching the proposal and how it would affect the public in the long-term. “We need to think about what’s right for Minnesota,” Carlson said.

Rep. Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji, and Carlson both alluded to the budget deal passed in July to end the 20-day state shutdown. No one was happy with the settlement, Hancock said. Reform initiatives, referred to as Reform 2.0, are aimed to control that in the future, Hancock said. 

The supermajority proposal is just one part of that. “I don’t see it as high on the priority list,” he said.“What is high on the priority list,” Carlson said, “is to make sure we don’t have a shutdown again.”

The proposal is among dozens of constitutional amendment proposals in the House and the Senate. With Republicans in control of both houses, amendments are one way they could past a potential veto by Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat who, for instance, vetoed four lawsuit reform initiatives. While reform ideas may have merit, Carlson said, he was not convinced that constitutional mandates are always in the best interest of Minnesotans. “Just because the governor says no doesn’t mean we have to go past him and go the Constitution,” Carlson said. 

At the Capitol: Study: Supermajority brings tax shift - St. Paul Pioneer Press

Megan Boldt, Pioneer Press, February 9, 2012

If Minnesota adopts a ballot measure that would require a supermajority of lawmakers to raise taxes, property taxes in turn likely would increase as local governments could be forced to take on a bigger burden of providing public services.

That's according to an analysis by the Minnesota Budget Project, an initiative of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

The group said it opposes constitutional amendments that would take away the power of a simple majority of lawmakers to craft state budgets and pass tax proposals.

Between 2000 and 2009, states with strict supermajority requirements saw local property taxes rise an average of 22 percent, after adjusting for inflation, according to the analysis. Property taxes in states without supermajority requirements for tax increases rose an average of 13 percent during that time.
California, a strict supermajority state, saw property taxes increase by 41 percent in real dollars, even though that state also has a constitutional limitation on property tax growth.

"The impact of this cost-shifting could further increase disparities in economic opportunities and availability of quality services across the state. Communities with fewer resources are least likely to be able to make up the difference from state budget cuts," according to the report.

The Minnesota Budget Project used data from nine states - Arizona, California, Delaware, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon and South Dakota. These states
have supermajority requirements that apply to all major sources of revenue, similar to the proposal being considered in Minnesota.

Our View: Amend politics, not the Constitution - Mankato Free Press

February 20, 2012

The Mankato Free Press, February 4th, 2012 

Minnesota’s divided and contentious politics have led some clever lawmakers to suggest the seductive idea of empowering the people to make decisions where their representatives cannot by offering a buffet-style smorgasbord of constitutional amendments.

Most have some kind of populist appeal and a suggestion that they are an easy solution to an even more clear and simple problem. Unfortunately, these instruments of pseudo empowerment threaten real representative democracy and let political leaders off the hook.
 
Minnesota’s Constitution, like the U.S. Constitution, represents statements of principles and carefully thought out structures of how government should work based on the basic idea that constitutions should set up a level playing field and create rules that apply to all.

Minnesota lawmakers have so far this year given birth to about two dozen constitutional amendments, from requiring photo IDs in voting to restricting the Legislature’s budgeting authority. Republican Sen. Majority Leader Dave Senjem has wisely expressed a need to limit the amendments to two or three. But even that may be too many.

While one can appreciate the zeal to let the people decide, all too often the people look for an enemy and find it is them. Take the Legacy Amendment for example. That amendment required a certain percentage of the sales tax to go toward the arts, culture and natural environment. Already some have questioned the inevitable judgment calls on where some of this money should go.

Most citizens do not have the time, or the inclination, to study issues in-depth, deliberate at length, and come up with alternative scenarios. That’s what we expect of our duly elected representatives. Many constitutional amendments simply let them off the hook. Good lawmaking is hard work, and we expect our legislators to get it done.

Constitutional amendments tend to be a cop out for lawmakers when they find they can’t compromise or worse, don’t want to compromise. They somehow feel people with surface knowledge of an issue can make a better decision than those who study reports, consider dozens of points of view and thereby come up with the best solutions to public problems.

People have plenty of power to express their displeasure with their lawmakers’ inability to solve problems by voting them out of office. They can do this in most cases quite frequently, and it’s been proven to work.

Constitutional amendments should not be a substitute for solving problems that can be resolved with regular legislation that has been studied and vetted. Many of the amendments being proposed by Minnesota lawmakers this year appear to be end runs around the legislative process, the veto of a governor being a part of that process.

The populist notion of a constitutional amendment sounds good as long as one is in the majority, because majority rules no matter what. But we all know that the majority changes frequently, so the majority may find itself regretting what it wished for when it’s in the minority.

The legislative process allows for minority interests to become part of a more thought-out and broader approach to solving complex public problems.

Constitutional amendments that cause representatives to abdicate their responsibility actually weaken representative democracy rather than strengthen it.

Fewer referenda - Austin Daily Herald

Austin Daily Herald, January 31, 2012

Minnesotans will vote on at least one constitutional amendment this fall and reports from St. Paul indicate that lawmakers are considering adding several more to the ballot. It’s a trend that Minnesotans need to keep an eye on, because legislating via amendment is a trend that could prove destructive in the long term.

There are several reasons for lawmakers to put what ought to be simple legislative questions out for voter approval in the form of constitutional amendments. For one thing, it lets lawmakers wash their hands of the result by “leaving it to the people.” While that makes lawmakers’ lives easier, it also raises the question of what good legislators are doing if they won’t do their jobs. Amendments are also a means of getting passed into law changes that can not make it through the usual legislative process — for example, bills which the governor would veto. And, of course, amendments are harder to overturn than simple laws.

While there may be some good in the last point, subverting the basic legislative process is a mistake. Minnesota has, by and large, done well over the years when its legislature and governor have worked together to hammer out laws that serve the state. Bypassing that process serves only to deepen a political divide that makes it difficult to get the people’s business done in the ordinary way.

Nor does leaving it to the people, cutting out the deliberative and less-emotional circuit-breaker of the usual legislative process, serve the state well — near-disastrous experiments such as California’s proposition system have amply shown.

Legislative amendments might sound good. But the reality is that they are an end-run around a long-standing process that exists for good reasons. Like most short-cuts, they will ultimately go wrong.


 

Partisan math clouds budget debate - Post Bulletin

June 02, 2011

Editorial, Post Bulletin, May 31, 2011

Sen. Carla Nelson, a Republican from Rochester, handed out an interesting and enlightening document during Thursday's Eggs and Issues event sponsored by the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce.

Under the headline "Here are the actual budget numbers for your consideration," she provided the following figures:

• $30.2 billion — current budget for this biennium (fiscal year 2010-11)
• $34.5 billion spent — includes onetime federal stimulus money and shifts (fiscal year 2010-11)
• $34 billion of revenue projected for next biennium (fiscal year 2012-13)
• $34 billion — Legislature's budget sent to Gov. Dayton for the next biennium
• $37 billion —  Dayton's budget for next biennnium.
• $39 billion in projected spending for next biennium.

Let's, as the saying goes, "unpack" some of those numbers.

Start with the last figure. That $39 billion is a pipe dream, the "government-growth-on-autopilot" budget that everyone knows won't happen. Minnesota needs to become more efficient, and spending can't expand at this rate when the economy is struggling.

Working our way down, consider the $37 billion Dayton budget. That figure was accurate for much of the session, but during the last week the governor adjusted his proposal. It now stands at about $35.8 billion in spending over the next two-year cycle.

Keep that in mind as we jump to the top two figures on Nelson's list. Minnesota used $30.2 billion of its own money in the current two-year cycle, but we actually spent $34.5 billion. To make the books balance, we didn't pay schools $1.9 billion that they're owed, and we used $2.3 billion in federal stimulus funds.

As far as we know, Minnesota didn't spend those federal dollars on a statewide pizza party. We spent them on education, transportation and health care, and without that money, we would have been in a world of hurt.

Yet, when some Republicans talk about the size of Dayton's proposed budget increase, they use $30.2 billion as the baseline of "current state spending," and compare it to Dayton's outdated $37 billion proposal.

By doing so, the GOP can claim that Dayton seeks a 22 percent spending increase. That's the figure that was cited by Rep. Mike Benson during Thursday's Eggs and Issues meeting. Nelson reported the same figure on her handout.

But if we compare what Minnesota actually spent in the past two years to the latest offer that Dayton has put on the table, spending would increase by 3.7 percent. Or, put another way, the annual increase would be less than 2 percent

If we can’t agree on how to do the math, we’re going to have a hard time reaching a deal.

So here's a hard fact: Dayton's proposal would exceed projected revenues by $1.8 billion. The GOP plan, on the other hand, has a certain cleanness and simplicity, in that it bases the budget on projected revenue and not a penny more.

"Need-based budgeting" that the DFL supports is much more complicated and messy, but simplicity isn't always a virtue. After hearing endless comparisons to households and businesses that "tighten their belts" and "learn to live within their means," we'd hasten to point out that when times get tough, businesses and households don't merely cut costs. They also look for ways to increase their income.

We believe Minnesota should do the same.

Should this new revenue be entirely through a new tax on our wealthiest citizens? Probably not. All avenues need to be explored.

Ideas include an expansion of gambling, a sales tax on clothing, new fees on tobacco and alcohol and increases in the price of hunting licenses, fishing licenses, boat registrations and state park permits. Other fees might also need to increase.

We need this revenue because Minnesota's population is growing — nearly 8 percent over the past decade. We have more kids to educate, and as baby boomers retire, we'll have more seniors who need long-term care. By 2030, one-fourth of our population will be 65 or older, twice the current figure.

We have more disabled and low-income people who require medical assistance, and inflation is affecting the cost of almost everything, including gasoline, food, medicine and skilled professional services.

Could those needs be met with the GOP's budget, which would spend $500 million less in the next two years than we spent in the previous two? On paper, it's almost certainly possible — almost anything is when you're just crunching numbers, trying to hit a certain figure.

But we're deeply afraid that when such a "solution" trickles down to our classrooms, our grandparents, our college students and our unemployed or disabled neighbor, Minnesota will cease to be recognizable as the state which once was known for innovation, education and compassion.

http://www.postbulletin.com/news/stories/display.php?id=1456320
 

Budget fix: Minnesota lags behind other states - MinnPost.com

April 18, 2011

Sharon Schmickle, MinnPost.com, April 15, 2011

A common theme in the state's tax-and-spend debate is that other states are balancing their budgets without raising taxes. In a fiercely competitive business climate, standing out in that regard is the last thing Minnesota needs, the argument goes.

Sen. Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, put it this way during a recent forum at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute: "If you look at all of the states across the country that are doing some of the same things and facing some of the same budget difficulties...most are achieving their budget targets through reductions and reforms not through raising taxes. In this economy, for Minnesota to be raising taxes at this time makes us an outlier — and, I believe, sends a bad signal."

Combo approach
I'd heard this theme repeated often enough to make me want to check the record. So I contacted the National Conference of State Legislatures in Colorado, which tracks state budget action. The record is not complete for this year because many states, like Minnesota, still are wrestling their budgets to the bottom line.

What is clear is that most states struggling in the aftermath of the Great Recession took steps in 2009 and 2010 to significantly boost taxes and other revenue while Minnesota did not.

In other words, those states built themselves some cushion early in this bout of hard time, and that is a factor in their ability to tighten spending this year.

Call it the combo approach.

2009: billions in new taxes
The key year was 2009 when states took their first hard hits from the triple whammy of the burst of the housing bubble, the near collapse of the financial system and the massive layoffs that followed.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that states passed a net tax increase of $28.6 billion that year to ease their budgets for 2010. That added up to a 3.7 percent overall tax hike, the largest increase since 1991.

The personal income tax went up the most, jumping in 15 states by a total of $11.4 billion.

"States relied heavily on it to raise new revenue, an event not observed in years," the Conference researchers said in their report. "Many of the income tax raising states targeted higher-income earners."

Further, 17 states increased or expanded sales taxes to generate another $7.2 billion. Twenty states raised business taxes. Taxes also went up for tobacco, alcoholic beverages, gasoline and certain health industry transactions.

Here are a few particulars from legislation passed in 2009 to shore up state treasuries for 2010:

•    The biggest personal income tax bites came in California and New York, some $9.2 billion of the total increase.

•    Delaware raised taxes on incomes above $60,000.

•    Oregon added new top rates of 10.8 percent and 11 percent to bring in $243 million.

•    Wisconsin increased income taxes on top earners by 1 percent. It also scaled back capital gains preferences and increased certain telephone taxes as well as tipping fees at landfills.

Minnesota's tight hold
Wisconsin's overall tax package represented a 5.8 percent increase over the previous year. The net effect was to relieve Wisconsin's budget deficit by $870.5 million for 2010.

Minnesota, by comparison, scored a net gain of $28.6 million in revenue for that year, mostly by terminating income-tax reciprocity with Wisconsin.

Minnesota is listed among six states that actually reduced income taxes slightly for 2010, mostly through adjustments made to conform corporate income taxes to federal changes.

Only 15 other states held the line against overall taxes as tightly as Minnesota did that year. And eight of those states came back in 2010 with substantial revenue increases.

More increases in 2010
By 2010, legislatures across the country were better prepared to hold the line on taxes. Still, many of them "increased taxes and fees for the ninth consecutive year as they worked to shore up state budgets," the Conference reported.

Overall, states enacted a net tax increase of nearly $4 billion. Add spikes in fees and other revenue, and the total came to $5.5 billion. Sales and use taxes were raised the most, increasing by $1.7 billion. Also up were taxes on businesses, tobacco, the health care industry, alcoholic beverages and motor fuel.

Minnesota is listed as having increased taxes slightly (about 0.4 percent) that year, chiefly by reducing property tax aid to local governments and the renters' property tax refund. It also delayed payments of sales and corporate tax refunds.

By comparison, here's a sampling from other states:

•    Arizona enacted a three-year sales tax rate increase from 5.6 percent to 6.6 percent.

•    New York raised its cigarette tax from $2.75 a pack to $4.35, extended the sales tax on clothing and limited personal income tax deductions for charitable donations for taxpayers who earn more than $10 million a year.

•    Ohio delayed a scheduled income tax reduction for two years.

•    New Mexico increased the sales tax by 0.125 percent, increased cigarette tax by $0.75 a pack and eliminated a tax deduction.

Taxing yoga and more in 2011
While all of this taxing helped cushion dozens of states, it didn't save them from another round of budget battles this year. With a few exceptions — like North Dakota where agriculture and energy industries are prospering — states are crawling back slowly from the ravages of the recession.

Many states have considered even more tax increases — on everything from yoga services (Missouri) to sales by Internet retailers like Amazon.com (California, Minnesota and others).

Illinois already has passed whopping tax rate increases: 66.7 percent on personal income and 48 percent on corporate income.

In California, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown proposes to extend 2009 increases on income, vehicle and sales taxes. Republican legislators are trying to block his bid to seek voter approval for the taxes in a June election.

Governors tackle thorny issues
But many other states realize they can't go back to the tax well year after year. Thus, they are suffering the political and fiscal pain of serious spending cuts.

"The dismal fiscal situation in many states is forcing governors, despite their party affiliation, toward a consensus on what medicine is needed going forward," The New York Times reported in January after examining the inaugural addresses of more than two dozen incoming governors.

The prescription, according to the Times, has been to "Slash spending. Avoid tax increases. Tear up regulations that might drive away business and jobs. Shrink government, even if that means tackling the thorny issues of public employees and their pensions."

New York in particular has signaled it's at the end of the line on tax increases. To the dismay of many of his fellow Democrats, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, declared that New York's government "spends too much money, and has for too long with too little performance for the taxpayer."

The recently passed New York budget slashes spending by about 2 percent, rather than impose new tax increases. Targets for cuts include health care and education, two big-ticket spending items that previously had been deemed untouchable.

No padding for Minnesota
So both sides in the Minnesota debate can hold up valid examples to prove their points.

But context is relevant too.

In that light, it's important to note that some prominent new champions of fiscal austerity — most notably Wisconsin and New York — are tightening their belts against the padding of recent tax increases.

Minnesota doesn't have that padding.

Downsizing Minnesota: the true price of government - Twin Cities Daily Planet

April 06, 2011

By Sharon Rolenc, Minnesota News Connection, Twin Cities Daily Planet, March 31, 2011

Minnesota lawmakers are trying to get a state budget to Gov. Mark Dayton's desk by the Easter break, and so far GOP leaders have justified a cuts-only approach, citing "out-of-control spending" they say is not sustainable.

But how much does government actually cost Minnesotans? The answer may be surprising.

For much of the 1990s, the average share of a household's income for state and local government hovered around 17.6 percent, peaking at nearly 18 percent in 1993. Nan Madden, director of the Minnesota Budget Project, says today that number has dropped to 15.2 percent.

"When we look at the data about the size of state and local government in Minnesota over time, we do see that government has been downsized from where it was for much of the '90s."

The economic downturn, not overspending, has led to the state's budget deficit, Madden says, because less income- and sales-tax revenue is coming in to cover state operations, programs and services. Spending down reserves or delaying public-school payments are some examples of short-term solutions she says may have offered temporary fixes, but later became problems when the bills came due.

It's true that health care is one area of the budget that has grown, Madden says, but that's not unique to government. It's happening in the private sector as well, she says, adding that cutting thousands of vulnerable Minnesotans off medical assistance isn't going to make the problem go away.

"We don't bring down the cost of health care simply by government saying we are going to buy less of it. It really needs some system-wide changes in the health-care system to bring those costs down, both in the public and the private sector."

A cuts-only approach to balancing the state budget isn't the best solution, Madden says, because services need to be paid for one way or another.

"Over time, we've seen cuts to state funding for cities and counties that has led to upward pressure on property taxes. We've cut state funding to our public colleges and universities, and as a result we've seen some dramatic increases in tuition. So we are raising revenues, we just have tended to do them in ways that are not as in sync with people's ability to pay."

With differing House and Senate budget bills on the table, Madden says, the real work begins with making concrete choices about what's truly important to the state and the quality of life for Minnesotans.

"When we take a look at the budget choices that have been made in this decade, we have largely relied on short-term solutions and cuts to services as a way to balance our budget. The easy solutions are well behind us. Now, we're looking at much more severe reductions to services that really bring into question what kind of state we're going to have in the future."

The Minnesota Budget Project has data on the price of government online at mnbudgetproject.org/resources.
Copyright: © 2011 Minnesota News Connection

State budget should follow Biblical lessons - Duluth News Tribune

March 28, 2011

The Rev. Kathy Larson and the Rev. Lon Weaver, Duluth News Tribune, March 27, 2011

We are writing on behalf of faith communities rooted in rich traditions and with special sensitivity to the vulnerable in our society. The book of Isaiah calls us to become “repairers of the breach” by building a society that responds to the needs of the poor and the broken. It is part of the fiber of who we are. When we fail in this, Isaiah teaches that we are presumptuous to call ourselves “a nation that practices righteousness.” When we neglect to do this, we are maintaining the chasm described in Jesus’ parable in the gospel of Luke about the separation between the “Rich One” and his neighbor, Lazarus, who lay wounded outside the gate — a harrowing fact in which the breach in this life stretched into one that existed in the life to come.

The message of the prophets is directed not at faith communities in particular but at the nation as a whole.

A growing chasm exists in Minnesota. We see evidence of this in the budget decisions our local school district has to make. Because the state has withheld 30 percent of its promised money to the Duluth school district, the School Board has been forced to make painful cuts. Among these are $1 million from special education; $110,000 through the elimination of the Habitat program; $135,000 from the English-as-a-second-language program; and the elimination of teaching, maintenance and administrative positions.

Churches United in Ministry, or CHUM, has seen further evidence of this chasm in the greatly increased numbers of people using its services. There are not enough beds in its shelter to give refuge to the homeless. Food shelf use is significantly higher: 13,892 individuals received help in 2010, 35 percent of them children.

There is another path, a way to repair the breach and cross the chasm. We can take a balanced approach that includes increasing revenue instead of just cutting services to our kids and our most vulnerable. We should tax based on ability to pay. As confirmed in a recent News Tribune article, the percentage of taxes paid by the wealthiest is less than that paid by those in the middle-income and lower-income brackets. The poorest 10 percent pay more than 20 percent of their income in taxes compared to the wealthiest 1 percent who pay 8.8 percent of their income in taxes.

The Legislature is facing hard decisions. The budget is a concrete expression of our values and commitments as a community. Who are we as Minnesotans and who do we care about? We are at a crossroads. We can and must change this picture. Together we can have the courage and compassion to do so.

The Rev. Kathy Nelson is pastor at Peace United Church of Christ in Duluth and the Rev. Lon Weaver is pastor at Glen Avon Presbyterian Church, both of Duluth. They wrote this on behalf of CHUM, or Churches United in Ministry, a clergy group.

Budget solution requires balance - Winona Daily News

Susan Brown and Brian Rusche, Winona Daily News, Friday, March 11, 2011

Minnesota families, just like our Minnesota state government, have been hit hard by the recession and its aftermath.

In times like these we do what it takes to persevere - provide for our loved ones, look out for our neighbors, and make wise decisions to pave the way for a better tomorrow.

Thousands of us have not yet felt the benefits of a fledgling recovery. Having lost a job or housing, nearly half a million Minnesotans are still face-to-face with hunger or homelessness, and turn to both nonprofits and public services to provide a temporary helping hand.

Unfortunately, just when neighbors still need a hand, state resources for providing this help are down. Like in most other states, the recent recession has caused Minnesota state revenues to fall far and fast. And so this is the challenge facing our elected officials: Do we rely solely on expenditure cuts inflicting real pain on nearly everyone, including those least able to shoulder new burdens, or do we favor a balanced approach that includes revenues, preserves some semblance of a safety net, and allows for strategic investments to accelerate economic recovery?

So far this legislative session, we've seen Minnesota's legislature embrace a cuts-only philosophy that would inflict real pain, reduce public services, reduce money in the economy, and cost many people their jobs. This approach would create a downward spiral, making the economy worse. If government reduces spending too much while families and businesses are also cutting back, it only makes times tougher and delays the much-needed recovery.

We can keep Minnesota competitive by producing a well-educated workforce, building an infrastructure that meets our growing demands and preserving a clean environment for future generations. This ought to also involve common sense improvements to our tax system - a system where today the wealthiest pay a smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than other Minnesotans.

During this time, the worst national economic crisis since the Great Depression, most states have recognized the logic of a balanced approach that includes revenues to address the growing gap between needs and resources. Yes, they all cut spending but they didn't only cut spending. To remain competitive, Minnesota must do the same.

We have already endured a decade of deep cuts, and we have watched our quality of life suffer as a result. It's time to lay the foundation for Minnesota to thrive when the economy rebounds.

If we continue to borrow from our schools and make higher education unaffordable, we deprive tomorrow's workforce of the next generation of Minnesota leaders. If we take our police officers and firefighters off the job and close our parks and libraries, we will no longer have safe, attractive communities for people who want to start careers, raise families, and begin new businesses. If we stop caring for our neighbors with affordable health services, decent housing and adequate food, we will hold people back as they work to recover from the recession and reach their full potential.

All of these items are so much more than lines in a budget; they are essential elements to our quality of life today and far into the future.

As our elected officials continue to grapple with a serious decline in revenues - caused not by overspending but by the national recession - we must not lose sight of the fact that this is much more than a math problem. We are talking about preserving the things that make Minnesota a great place to live. As leaders of the Invest in Minnesota coalition, we urge lawmakers to keep all of our options on the table and use a balanced approach that includes revenues. Let's pull together and reclaim our reputation as a high quality-of-life state.

Susan Brown is the public policy director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and Brian Rusche is the executive director of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition. Invest in Minnesota unites over 200 faith, labor and nonprofit organizations from around the state in a call for revenues raised fairly to address budget shortfalls.

Balanced Approach - ABC Newspaper

Katherine Wagoner, ABC Newspapers, February 16, 2011

Balanced approach

To the Editor:

As I’ve been listening to our elected officials debate how to address the budget shortfall, the severity of what’s at stake is becoming clear. It’s more than a math problem, it’s about whether or not we will continue to invest in education, health care, roads, and care for veterans, the elderly and people experiencing poverty.

So far this year our representatives have proposed a cuts-only approach that would jeopardize the future of our state and our many citizens.

To address the $6.2 billion shortfall with cuts alone, we will see consequences that cause real pain to real people.

I work first-hand with people struggling to find work in this economy and cuts to supported employment programs, subsidized childcare and transportation assistance will hurt unemployed people as they fight to get back on their feet.

It is wrong to balance the budget on the backs of the vulnerable – Minnesota is better than that.

Fortunately, we have another choice. We can take a balanced approach that includes raising revenues, and at the same time we can create fairness in our tax system. High-income earners should be paying the same percentage of their income in state and local taxes as those of us in the low-income and middle-income brackets.

I hope that is the kind of solution we see when Gov. Dayton releases his budget. It’s the right thing for working families, for unemployed and low-income and for all of us working to recover from the recession.

That’s why I’m involved with the Invest in Minnesota coalition uniting faith, labor and nonprofit organizations in our call for a balanced approach.

Katherine Wagoner
Coon Rapids

 

Invest in Minnesota Coalition
651-757-3063

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