GOP candidates outline budget balancing measuresby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — State finance officials will release the latest budget forecast Wednesday and if the current economic situation holds, the state is expected to see another deficit.
All the Democrats running for governor support raising taxes to resolve Minnesota's ongoing budget problems, but their Republican counterparts have different ideas.
None of the Republican candidates for governor support a tax increase to balance the budget, instead they say plenty of spending should be cut.
"The sky's the limit," said Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano. "We have got a government that is duplicating its efforts all over place."
At forums and on his website, Emmer hasn't offered specifics on what programs he would cut to erase a budget deficit that could reach $6 billion in the next biennium. He has suggested slashing public relations positions in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, merging the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services, and sitting down with public employees to determine which services are being done twice.
Comparing Minnesota to Colorado, which are similar in both geographic and population measures, Emmer said Minnesota's spending needs to be slashed.
"They're delivering government for $40-$50 billion every two years. You have to sit back and ask yourself, 'What's wrong with this picture?"
Counting all funds, Minnesota's two-year budget is $60 billion.
Pat Anderson, who was State Auditor between 2003 and 2007, said she wants to dramatically overhaul state government. She wants to eliminate the corporate income tax, but end all business tax breaks like the Research & Development credit and Gov. Tim Pawlenty's JOBZ initiative.
Anderson said she would expand the state's sales tax to clothing and services and would cut welfare benefits. She would also provide health care vouchers for low income Minnesotans to buy health insurance in the private market rather than get their insurance through a subsidized system.
"This is not about picking around the edges anymore," Anderson said. "It's about full structural reform of state government. Getting back to what state government should be. Following the state constitution, providing essential services and providing them well and then getting out of everything else."
For his part, Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall said he would be aggressive in opposing legislation he doesn't like.
"I would view the veto pen as an offensive tool rather than a defensive tool," he said.
Seifert said he would veto bills that contain what he calls waste. He would also eliminate departments and create a two year limit on new programs to ensure the legislation is meeting expectations. Seifert also said he would cut social service programs like welfare and subsidized health insurance.
"I would have made some more dramatic effects on our welfare programs," Seifert said. "I am very aggressive, as many of you know, on welfare reform and it's time to stop talking about trimming around the edges like cutting funding for ACORN, and cutting a little bit for commissions and cutting a little bit for abortion providers or cutting a little bit for others."
Sen. David Hann R-Eden Prairie said he would look at the two biggest spending areas for cuts.
"If you look at where we spend the most money--which is the education areas and health and human services--that's where the money is," he said. "That's where we have to get structural reform."
During gubernatorial forums, on his website and in interviews, Hann hasn't been specific on where he would cut government.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty
For his part, Gov. Pawlenty admires the ambition to cut more government spending, but he said he wants to see more details from all of the candidates.
"I would hope that as the campaign matures and the agendas and the platforms of the candidates become more specific, that they not just say they can do more but show us specifically what they would do," Pawlenty said.
Three of the GOP candidates will have the chance to put their ideas into action when the Legislature is in session in February: Seifert, Emmer and Hann currently serve as lawmakers.
- Morning Edition, 11/30/2009, 7:20 a.m.