Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature say Republican plans to balance the budget through spending reductions will increase property taxes, harm the state's poor and force lay-offs to state workers.
Republicans in the House and Senate proposed their budget framework today. It includes more than $1.5 billion in cuts to health and human services programs, nearly a billion in cuts in state aid to cities and counties and hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to state agencies. DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen says House Republicans are promising $300 million in income tax cuts to low and middle income people while slashing spending that will raise property taxes.
"What you're seeing today is a classic example of misdirection," Thissen said. "They are putting money in the pockets of middle class Minnesotans with one hand while they're reaching into the other pocket of middle class Minnesotans and taking out double the amount of money."
Legislative leaders were reluctant to go into detail as to what those cuts would like. They say the respective committee chairs will release the budget bills over the next weeks. DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk says the public should be concerned about those details.
"It's very easy to put a budget together on a spreadsheet," Bakk said. "They are just lines and numbers. That's easy but there's real impacts to real people when you actually get down to the language and all of the line-item appropriations."
Republicans say their proposal holds the line on spending. Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch of Buffalo says individual finance committees now face a March 25th deadline to fill in the blanks.
"We don't intend to start the conversation in April and May. We want to start it in March, because we want to get our job done. This is the most important thing we're going to do down here this year.. We need to get that job done. We need to get it done in a timely fashion."
Governor Dayton is proposing to balance the budget by using a mix of spending cuts and tax increases. He issued a statement saying the proposed Republican cuts would hurt school children, taxpayers, businesses and seniors. During a meeting with firefighters earlier in the day, Dayton stressed the need to protect local governments and other programs. He said every dollar cut will affect Minnesotans.
"Somebody who's elderly," Dayton said. "Somebody who's disabled. Somebody who needs police and fire protection. Somebody who's depending on a quality education for their future. This budget is about dollars and cents, but it's about our values and priorities, and then ultimately about peoples lives."
Dayton urged Republicans to take their time putting together budget bills and to listen to the people who will feel the impact of proposed cuts. House and Senate budget committees face a March 25 deadline.