Op/Ed by Governor Mark Dayton, Senator Tom Bakk, and Representative Paul Thissen
Originally published in The Pioneer Press on Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 3:33 pm
Minnesotans were given a clear choice between two very different visions for the future of our state in this last election, and the results speak for themselves. Now, with a DFL governor and two DFL majorities in the Legislature for the first time in 22 years, we are focused on our shared responsibility to govern well for all the people of Minnesota and to lead our state forward together.
And with so much at stake, we know that Minnesotans are watching closely.
Our commitment is not only to give you a government that works, but a government that works for you. That means balancing the budget responsibly without gimmicks and borrowing. It means making our tax system fair in order to invest in education, job creation and property tax relief. And it means continuing to reform state government to make it work better for all Minnesotans.
We know this won't be easy, but it starts by being honest about our state's structural budget problems. Incredibly, we've faced a state budget deficit in eight of the last ten years, and this year is no different. After a decade of deep cuts, short-sighted accounting gimmicks, and borrowing from our future, we enter this budget cycle facing another billion dollar budget deficit--and we still owe our schools a billion dollars more.
It is clear that the slash, burn and borrow budgeting approach of the past has not put our state on stable footing. Tuition is skyrocketing at our colleges and universities, class sizes are growing in our K-12 schools, property taxes are steadily increasing for families, farmers, seniors and small businesses, and too many Minnesotans remain out of work or underemployed.
We need to take bold action to put our state on a path to long-term economic prosperity. It is time for a new approach--one that is fair, responsible and does not place the burden for solving our budget issues on the backs of middle-class families.
As we begin to debate the budget at the Capitol in the weeks ahead, we share the basic philosophy that we cannot cut our way to prosperity, just as we cannot tax our way to greatness. That simplistic debate has not served us well. We are instead committed to a budget that will promote our economic competitiveness, provide greater economic security for the middle class, and create pathways into it for those struggling in these tough economic times.
We recognize that the road to a sustained economic recovery is a strong and expanding middle class. As our economy grows, it is critical that state policy encourages prosperity that is widely shared in all parts of Minnesota with jobs that provide economic security and wages on which people can improve their lives and raise their families. That is the lens through which we will view all of our policy choices.
We recognize that Minnesota's long-term economic competitiveness will hinge on our ability to deliver a world-class education for our kids. A race to the top means that Minnesota should lead the nation in early education, K-12 and in higher education. But after a decade of disinvestment we have declined. This year is our opportunity to reverse course.
Further, we know we will never make these critical investments in education to keep our state thriving unless we bring stability and fairness back to our tax system. Middle class Minnesota families and businesses have seen their property taxes double over the past eight years. At the same time, the wealthiest Minnesotans pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than middle class families and some corporations continue to enjoy unfair tax breaks. Tax reform must not be about picking on one group--indeed, eliminating loopholes while lowering some business taxes makes sense. But everyone should share responsibility for investing in the priorities that put Minnesota on a path to progress--now and for generations to come.
We are going to have disagreements, but our differences will force us toward common ground, not a government shutdown. Ideological barriers have stalled progress at the State Capitol for far too long. We will be serious, mindful of the stakes, and inclusive of all voices--including those of Republican legislators. The people of Minnesota want and deserve a government that listens to different ideas and engages in reasoned debate. That's how a democracy is supposed to work.
We understand there is tough work ahead. We are committed to working together to address our state's challenges with a focus on the priorities we all share: balancing the state's budget responsibly and expanding economic opportunity for all Minnesotans. That is how we will move our state forward.
We are ready to get to work.
We are going to have disagreements, but our differences will force us toward common ground, not a government shutdown. Ideological barriers have stalled progress at the State Capitol for far too long. We will be serious, mindful of the stakes, and inclusive of all voices--including those of Republican legislators.
Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, is speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, is Senate majority leader. Mark Dayton, DFL, is Minnesota governor.