In Response: Focus on policy with surplus, not politics
Professor David Schultz's thinly veiled political attack against the Republican Party via his column in the News Tribune last Sunday was a disservice to readers trying to follow the debate about what to do with the state's budget surplus. His spi...
Professor David Schultz’s thinly veiled political attack against the Republican Party via his column in the News Tribune last Sunday was a disservice to readers trying to follow the debate about what to do with the state’s budget surplus. His spin on the issue betrayed a liberal bias and a lack of understanding on how the state’s budget works. (Schultz’s “Statewide View” column was headlined, “Minnesota’s budget surplus: Dumb, dumber - and brilliant politics.”)
To be clear, the Republican Party believes unapologetically that state leaders should put family budgets first in St. Paul.
Our “Give It Back” campaign was launched to educate voters about the state government surplus and to propose sending it back to Minnesotans rather than spending it.
In contrast, Schultz seemed intent only on discrediting our legitimate public policy solution as a crass political ploy.
Having spent four years on the House Taxes Committee and two years as vice chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, I found it clear that Schultz failed to provide an accurate picture of the situation.
He claimed that returning a surplus and reducing taxes in 1999 resulted in deficits in 2002, ignoring that the post-9/11 economic downturn in 2001 produced a decline in state revenue while growth in spending continued unabated.
He claimed we don’t really have a surplus because inflation for state spending should be included, not mentioning that state spending has grown at twice the rate of inflation and population growth for 30 years.
He claimed the surplus is temporary, not structural, yet Minnesota Management and Budget’s official forecast states clearly that the surplus is structural, i.e., ongoing. The current $2 billion surplus is not a one-time windfall; it actually grows to a $3 billion surplus in the next budget for a total surplus of $5 billion over four years.
Schultz claimed we should prioritize building the state’s reserves, not mentioning that both our cash and budget reserves are already flush to the level required by law. The $2 billion surplus exists on top of the state’s statutorily mandated cash and budget reserves.
He painted Republicans as irrational on tax policy while predictably ignoring the Democrats’ $2 billion tax increase two years ago and never once mentioning that Democrats are proposing another
$6 billion tax increase this year that will fall disproportionately on middle-class folks in nonmetro Minnesota.
Most importantly, Schultz never once mentioned the most basic budget facts: State spending on autopilot is scheduled to grow 21 percent over four years, from $34 billion to $41 billion, without spending a dime of the surplus or raising any new taxes. And Democrats have proposed a budget that spends almost the entire surplus - and raises taxes, for an $8 billion, 24 percent increase in spending over four years, from $34 billion to well over
In contrast, the Republican message is straightforward: Put family budgets first.
We can fund our state’s priorities - including roads and bridges, education, nursing homes, our veterans and infrastructure - with the substantial resources we already have.
The fair thing to do with the surplus is to give it back to Minnesotans. Don’t spend it. When people understand it’s their money - and that it’s $350 per Minnesotan or $1,400 for a family of four - it sinks in.
Importantly, Republicans once again are saying we should trust Minnesotans for our future, not bigger government. We believe in you!
Our message is about growth and opportunity, entrepreneurship and great jobs, successful kids and thriving families.
The good news is that because of the hard work of Minnesotans across the state, our state government has the financial resources to fund our priorities - without spending the surplus and without unnecessary tax increases.
And when Minnesotans learn the facts and see the Republican vision for the people of our state, we are confident they will agree.
Keith Downey is chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota.