By SEN. PAUL GAZELKA
Minnesota lawmakers adjourned the 2014 legislative session late on Friday, May 16, ending nearly a year and a half of one-party rule under Minnesota Democrats.
Senate and House Republican leaders traveled across the state Monday to recap the past year and a half of single-party, Democrat control, and offer their positive vision for the productive solutions that balanced leadership could bring.
The decisions made during the 2013 and 2014 sessions by Gov. Dayton and the Democratic legislature will increase spending by 12 percent.To make this spending possible, taxes were raised a total of $2.1 billion in 2013 jeopardizing job creation in Minnesota. According to Minnesota Management and Budget, under the Democrats’ budget there have been three consecutive monthly updates where revenue has fallen short of forecasted amounts.
Furthermore, the Department of Employment and Economic Development reports that Minnesota shed 4,200 jobs in April with a growth rate of 1.5 percent, lagging the U.S. growth rate of 1.7 percent.
House and Senate Democrats, along with Gov. Dayton, ignored quarterly budget warnings indicating unsustainable tax and spending increases will result in budget deficits.
This quarter was no exception, for the third consecutive quarter Minnesota’s Office of Management & Budget has indicated that, despite more spending and taxing, we continue to see budget deficits. To me this proves that liberal tax and spend policies do not work. It’s proving that the Democrats priorities are wrong for Minnesota.
Minnesotans deserve better. We need legislators who are willing to work across party lines to develop solutions that work for our rural communities, not just our metro area.
Additional spending included a nearly $1.2 billion bonding bill. The package put forth by Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, and Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, is comprised of two bills that would have a general obligation bonding impact of $846 million. The second bonding bill, also known as the supplemental cash bill, would spend $198.7 million from the state’s budget for additional projects.
Included in the cash bill is just $22 million of the approximately $69 million needed to complete the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System that would help provide fresh water to parts of southwestern Minnesota where water supplies have dwindled.
Included in the general obligation bonding bill is:
• $126.3 million to finish the State Capitol restoration;
• $120.7 million for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities projects, including $42.5 million in systemwide asset preservation, $35.86 million for a science education center at Metropolitan State University and $25.82 million for a clinical sciences facility at Minnesota State University, Mankato;
• $119.37 million for the University of Minnesota, including $56.7 million for a Tate Laboratory renovation and $42.5 million in systemwide asset preservation;
• $21.5 million for Nicollet Mall redesign in downtown Minneapolis;
• $18.33 million for the wastewater infrastructure fund;
• $17.67 million for trail acquisition and development;
• $15 million for a capital improvement program to advance Twin Cities metropolitan area transit;
• $14 million for the development of Lake Vermillion State Park;
• $10.65 million to construct a new boys’ dormitory at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf;
• $8.5 million for renovations at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, including improving irrigation and drainage;
• $5.38 million for a fence at the state women’s prison in Shakopee; and
• $5.35 million for renovation at the Chatfield Center for the Arts.
Cash bill components include:
• $61 million for convention center projects in Mankato, Rochester and St. Cloud;
• $7.5 million for flood hazard mitigation;
• $6.95 million to renovate the NorShor Theatre in Duluth; and
• $225,000 to construct the All Veterans Memorial in Edina.
Missing is a repeal of a state building code requirement for all new larger homes to have fire sprinklers. Governor Dayton threatened to veto the entire bill had the repeal been included. As a result all larger new homes will require fire sprinklers upon construction.
While I had hoped to support Democrats’ priorities for spending this year, I was disappointed to notice the absence of $2 million in funding for the Military Affairs budget, which would primarily have gone to fund salaries for men and women in uniform. In addition, we did not keep our agreement to keep bonding to $850 million. Instead we have a bonding bill of $846 million plus a “cash bonding” bill of $200 million, an unneeded Senate Office Building of $90 million, plus permission for the U of M to bond for a $53 million museum.
All in total, we really spent almost $1.2 billion. I could not in good conscience support such unchecked spending as we have seen with one-party control in St. Paul.
Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, represents District 9 in the Minnesota Senate.