GOP Budget Plan $3 Billion Less Than Dayton Proposal




Minnesota legislative Republicans say they want to spend $34 billion in the next two years, about the same as in the current budget but $3 billion less than Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton proposes.

House and Senate Republicans today released similar budget outlines, and said legislative committees have two weeks to decide how to spend the money.

Dayton proposes a $37.4 billion budget. The current two-year budget, which ends June 30, is expected to hit the $34.6 billion mark.

Under the GOP plans, health program spending would increase 5 percent to 6 percent and public school education spending would rise 2.5 percent to 3.6 percent. Other spending would shrink to make room for increased spending in those areas, which are much of the state budget.

Among the biggest percentage cuts would be in state government agencies and environment, energy and commerce spending. Cuts to the latter category would approach 30 percent.

It was not clear how much of a hit local governments would take from GOP budget plans.

Mayors from across Minnesota met with Dayton on Wednesday expressing their interest in continued local aid payments from the state. Dayton promised to protect their payments as many feared Republican budget plans would make major cuts.

While Republicans’ exact local aid figures are yet to be produced, the general spending category that contains local aids shrunk less than some local officials feared.

However, legislative leaders said they will leave it to their tax committees to decide the details of local aid funding.

House leaders said they plan to cut low- and middle-income Minnesotans’ taxes $300 million, but would not give details.

The budget outline only contains general figures. Senate leaders say their committees have until March 25 to decide what to spend under the general guidelines announced today.

“We are going to live within our means,” Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said, not what lawmakers would like to spend.

While Dayton calls for a tax increase on the richest 5 percent of Minnesotans, Republicans rejected that idea because they say it would hurt businesses.

“This is a time out for taxpayers,” Michel said.

Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said the spending includes an expected $33 billion in revenue in the next two years and $1 billion left unspent in the current budget.

A Minnesota union leader said the GOP plan is bad news.

“Middle class families looking for relief from sluggish job growth and regressive property taxes will be sorely disappointed with the Senate Republicans’ budget targets,” Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson said. “Draconian cuts to job creation tools and our colleges and universities are job killers that take Minnesota backwards.”

Higher education spending would be cut 15 percent or 16 percent by Republicans.