Opinion: An Unnecessary Shutdown: Let’s Open Minnesota for Business
We need to get government spending under control. Since the beginning of session, Republican lawmakers have focused on building a budget solution that funds priorities sustainably without increasing the burden on taxpayers. We need to support, not burden, what makes Minnesota great: Minnesotans.
The budget we completed in May spent only the amount of revenue we were projected to bring in, which was a six percent increase over the previous biennium. Our $34 billion budget increased spending in Education and Health & Human Services. Courts, Public Safety and Transportation were held harmless. It was the largest General Fund Budget in Minnesota history but it didn’t spend more than what we had in the checkbook.
Our budget also included critical reforms. We knew it was important to redesign government so businesses could grow and thrive and families could have confidence in our economy and community institutions. Our budget included education reforms to empower local school districts in budget decisions, jobs and business reforms to improve the efficiency in permitting and health care reforms to transform into a patient-centered system.
Although we completed our budget before the constitutionally required deadline, Gov. Dayton waited until after we adjourned to veto almost our entire budget.
Despite months of hard work by legislators to create a balanced, responsible budget compromise, Gov. Dayton succeeded in forcing a government shutdown. Today, Gov. Dayton is holding the state budget hostage because he wants to raise taxes and spend more.
In contrast, during the past 100 days, Republican lawmakers have made 10 budget offers, including three details budget compromises, two “blueprint” offers and five official requests that Gov. Dayton call a special session for a temporary funding or “lights-on” bill.
Legislators can’t call a special session to end Gov. Dayton’s shutdown, although most are working toward a shutdown resolution. Only Gov. Dayton can call a special session.
It’s now the longest state shutdown in recent U.S. history.
Gov. Dayton’s decision to shut down government caused the layoff of 22,000 “non-essential” state employees and interrupted the work of thousands of others but the governor had his Chef and Housekeeper/Server deemed essential state employees during the shutdown. This is neither responsible nor rational leadership.
We know what’s at stake. Gov. Dayton’s shutdown closed state parks, stopped new road construction projects, closed license renewals for teachers and medical professionals, suspended inspections in hospitals and nursing homes and closed domestic abuse and women’s & children’s shelters among many other critical services. All of these services were funded and would be open under the Republican budget.
Ignoring the reality that each passing week of this shutdown keeps thousands unemployed and costs taxpayers and businesses millions, Gov. Dayton renewed his demand for more taxes yesterday.
Minnesotans understand that state spending is growing at an unsustainable rate. A recent KSTP/Survey USA poll showed that 87 percent of Minnesotans support government spending the same or less. Only eight percent supported Gov. Dayton’s plan for increased government spending.
We don’t need to increase taxes. We need to rein in government spending. Once Gov. Dayton understands what 87 percent of Minnesotans understand, we can move forward and open Minnesota up for business.
Peter D. Winiecki
Senate Republican Caucus