House GOP Will Fund Priorities Without Tax Increases

St. Paul – A few weeks ago, my House GOP colleagues and I released the budget targets that designated the amount of money each finance committee has to allocate. The committees then held public hearings to craft their omnibus budget bill. The omnibus finance bills make up the House-proposed budget.

The proposal we sent to Governor Dayton balances the budget without raising taxes and sets the state on a sustainable course that keeps spending in check. By contrast, the governor proposed to increase government spending by 22 percent and raise taxes by $2.4 billion to pay for it. These tax hikes would affect income, sales, property and business taxes for thousands of Minnesota families.

Across the state, families and companies are doing more with less; state government must do the same. We cannot continue to uphold the status quo of reckless spending policies that create deficits and uncertainty. We need to set funding priorities to put Minnesota on a long-term path towards growth and prosperity.

One funding priority area is K-12 education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for those without a high school diploma is nearly 16 percent compared with the overall rate of 8.9 percent. Education is not only a priority for many Minnesotans, it’s a jobs issue.

By setting priorities and making some difficult decisions, we were able to balance the $5.1 billion deficit but still increase per pupil K-12 funding. Under the House GOP budget, schools in our area would see their funding increase between $91 and $546 per student by 2013, depending on the district.

While increasing funding, we are also enacting reforms that introduce accountability and place the focus on student achievement. This marks a different path taken by the 2009 DFL majority who then proposed to cut education funding by $1 billion and to hike taxes by a massive $2.4 billion (Star Tribune, 3/12/2009).

Many of the reforms proposed by House Republicans have national bipartisan support, have already implemented in other states and are recommended by President Obama’s Race to the Top program.  As the President said, “It’s time to stop just talking about education reform and start actually doing it.”

Part of the reform is measures to increase accountability for every taxpayer dollar spent. The time of autopilot spending increases is over. The focus needs to shift from increasing funding to an outcome based system and improving services with existing revenues.

The Republican Caucus’s focus on the budget has been to streamline operations and find cost savings while delivering core services. Raising taxes is irresponsible and the opposite of what we need at a time when so many people remain out of work.

Runaway spending creates uncertainty for job creators and crowds out private investment. Instead of taking our state backward, I hope to find bipartisan agreement on the need to create an environment where businesses will start hiring and people can get back to work.

Representative Roger Crawford is a small business owner and vice chair of the Local and Property Taxes Division. He can be reached by phone at (651) 296-0518. He can also be contacted via e-mail at rep.roger.crawford@house.mn.