September 16, 2011
Dear friends and neighbors, As more outcomes from the state budget resolution become known, the less Minnesotans approve of the deal that was offered by the Legislative Republicans and accepted by Governor Dayton to end the state government shutdown. Now, the same legislators who pledged to cut their way to a balanced budget regardless of the impacts are now running from their budget solutions.
With respect to education funding, forty percent of the funding promised to our schools has been withheld. This is the so-called “school shift.” The result. Schools are forced to borrow for operations and must decide which programs to fund and which to cut. Currently, Minnesota has the largest education shift in the nation at 40%. The next closest education shift was enacted by California at 18% (remember their financial situation).
Recently, many Republican legislators have been touting an increase in education funding. While it is true that the per pupil funding formula increased by $50, it is a pittance compared to the $4,168 owed to our schools per pupil as a result of the $3.45 billion “shift.” Furthermore, the $50 per pupil funding increase only came about because Governor Dayton fought for it as a condition of agreeing to the Republican budget, that included the shift, and his rationale was that $50 per pupil was necessary to offset the borrowing costs (interest payments) that would be required to keep our schools’ doors open.
A shift is only a shift if there is a mechanism to repay the shift. Currently, none exists. If the shift cannot be repaid, it’s not a shift. It’s a cut. Simply put, to fulfill the promise made to our schools, we need to raise revenue. Nearly all schools already know this. At least 133 school districts are asking voters for funding this year. Many of these levies are renewals; not increasing property taxes but merely keeping operational funding at a level where schools won’t have to lay off teachers or cut more sports and activities. Some Republican legislators are actively campaigning against local control and these local levies, accusing school districts of being greedy. I find it hard to believe that a suburban legislator knows what’s best for any of the school districts in Greater Minnesota.
Another budget solution that was pushed by the Republican majority (which they are now running away from) is the elimination of the homestead credit. Last session, they pushed hard for and won, taking away a tax credit which 95 percent of Minnesota homeowners currently receive. Look at your recent property tax statements to see how much this credit saved you. The average credit was $202 this year, meaning Republicans raised taxes by this much on every Minnesotan who owned a home valued up to $414,000. In fact, homeowners in rural areas will see three times the property tax increases compared to some suburban areas. Like many of my constituents who have contacted me, I too am outraged at this hidden tax increase. I voted no on its elimination and have co-authored a bill to re-instate the Market Value Homestead Credit.
I can’t say I’m surprised that the folks who proposed and passed these cuts, shifts, and middle class tax increases are now running away from them. They are bad ideas and Minnesotans are not being shy in telling them what they think. Please continue to contact me with your ideas and solutions to the problems facing the state. You can reach me by phone at 651-296-4228 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.