Central Minnesota lawmakers were universally pleased with the February budget forecast showing a shrinking projected budget deficit of $627 million for fiscal years 2014-15, but offered different takes on what the figures mean.
The latest forecast is an improvement from the November budget forecast that showed a projected deficit of $1.1 billion.
“I’m pleased that our deficit is shrinking, but it’s still another in our decade of deficits,” said Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter, said in a news release. “Instead of balancing the budget honestly, we’ve papered over deficits with gimmicks and one-time solutions. Minnesotans deserve a budget that is balanced honestly without gimmicks, one that funds the things we value as Minnesotans and keeps us economically competitive.”
Rep. Joe Radinovich, DFL-Crosby, said: “This is positive news, but a $627 million deficit and an $800 million IOU to schools means there is still work to do. We have less of a mess to clean up, but a mess nonetheless. We need to close this deficit and begin reinvesting in Minnesota’s future.”
Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Cass County, pointed out this was the last budget forecast period the Republicans, who controlled the previous legislative session, could take credit for influencing.
“It’s a reminder that the polices we put in place work,” he said.
He said he favors an immediate payback to school districts of the money that was borrowed from them in previous legislative sessions.
“Absolutely,” he said. “We borrowed it from the schools and we should make that our priority rather than adding new programs.”
He said he hoped the Democrats will reconsider support for Gov. Mark Dayton’s requested $2.2 billion in revenue from an expanded sales tax.
Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Lake Shore, said in a statement the tax increases being sought by Dayton were unnecessary.
He said the new economic forecast from Minnesota Management and Budget is the fourth consecutive report to show more revenue than previously projected, for a combined $2.8 billion dating back to November of 2011.
State revenue is projected to grow by 3 percent in the upcoming biennium, Anderson said. All the state needs to do to balance the bottom line is to craft a budget which stays within the comfortable limits of 3-percent growth.
“We can resolve our budget without raising taxes,” he said in his statement.
Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, said the good economic news was great for Minnesota, proves that a responsible approach to the state budget works and that taxes don’t need to be raised.
“We’re getting really close and we’re on the right track,” she said.
Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, issued the following statement regarding the release of the February forecast budget update:
“The February forecast signals more good news for Minnesota’s economy. Over the past two years, we’ve seen billions of dollars in additional revenue, and created over 50,000 new jobs in the last year alone, all without raising taxes.
“I hope in our discussions about the budget in the coming weeks and months that we can focus on ways to continue to foster economic growth and job creation for our state. Republicans were able to close a $5.5 billion dollar deficit last biennium without raising taxes; I believe we can do the same to close the $627 million dollar gap for 2014-2015 without job-killing tax increases.”