By John R. Stone
My first reaction on May 23 when I woke up and found out that the Minnesota Legislature had not resolved nearly $8 billion in proposed spending was “who snookered who?”
Remember this is a non-budget year so major monetary issues didn’t need to be resolved. On the other hand, the budget was showing a $9 billion surplus plus there was federal stimulus money to be allocated so there would be plenty to consider.
A week or so ago we were told that the spending guidelines would include $4 billon for tax cuts, $4 billion for education, mental health, law enforcement and some other social issues. The balance of the money was set aside for future use because we don’t know if revenues will remain high.
Some things were done before last week. The largest was setting aside money to pay back the Federal government for unemployment payments made during the pandemic. More was spent than the state had so money was borrowed from the feds. All that money comes from unemployment insurance premiums levied against businesses, so the businesses were going to be socked for paying back the state and feds. That made lots of sense to me.
There were other smaller bills passed so there were some things done.
But that $8 billion was the stickler. Apparently, the deal was that all $8 billion had to be approved by both houses or none of it would pass.
Earlier in the week the tax bill passed with bipartisan support. It called for tax cuts for the lowest tax bracket, among other things, and the elimination of state income taxes on Social Security retirement payments and probably some more.
So, that set up the education and social spending to which both sides could not agree Sunday night. Different sides say they were close, some details had to be dealt with and that more time was needed.
I probably don’t need to explain that the Republicans were the big push behind the tax reductions while the Democrats were the big push behind the education and social spending that was not resolved Sunday night.
So, Republicans were in the position of having their tax cuts and probably were willing to go along with some social spending but probably had some issues that were deal breakers.
Democrats probably knew they were going to get quite a bit to spend and probably knew what the deal breakers were regarding Republican votes.
And we must factor that this year is an election year with new districts for most in the state House and Senate.
Scenario #1: Republicans said they needed to get tax stuff decided first to make sure it is acceptable to them. They’ve got problems with what some of the Democrats want but feel they can say “no” at the end because they have already outlined what they want tax-wise for the voters. If Democrats don’t cave at the end, they can blame them for killing the tax bill.
Scenario #2: Democrats let the Republicans have much of what they want in the tax bill figuring their acts of kindness is this area will be appreciated by Republicans who will let them have a little more of what they want in their education etc. bill. They figure the Republicans, with the tax bill in their hands, wouldn’t dare kill the Democratic proposals because they would lose their tax bill. But if Republicans don’t play along, they can blame them for killing the education, etc. proposals.
In other words it is an election year and it is just as import to be able to place blame as it is to take credit. How stupid is that?
If our legislators can’t figure out how to spend this to benefit our state, and us in the long run, why not just send the $8 billion back to those of us who paid it? I have more than a few projects around the house where that money could be very helpful.