Freshman Republican Rep. Kurt Daudt has been sharing his experiences with MPR during the first weeks of his term of office.
He was elected this past November to represent District 17A, mainly in Isanti County. Daudt is also an assistant majority leader.
Tom Crann: This week we heard from Gov. Dayton. He released his budget earlier in the week. What's your reaction?
Rep. Kurt Daudt: I would say it's probably even more than what we were expecting. We knew that he had been talking about increasing taxes. This is kind of the mother of all tax increases. Frankly, it's the largest tax increase in Minnesota history. It creates the highest tax rate in the nation at a time where Minnesota families are struggling, and people frankly can't probably afford to shoulder any more tax increases, so, disappointed, but certainly we'll work through the process here.
We're starting to hear his budget in different committees, and we'll be introducing our own budget by March 25. And we're certainly going to work through the process.
Crann:Will we get a complete budget from the Republicans? So far, there were cuts which were vetoed by the governor, close to $1 billion worth, because he said he didn't want a piecemeal approach. So, will Republicans present a full budget?
Daudt: We will. We'll have targets. At this point, we're waiting for the February forecast to come out. That'll kind of give us the most updated picture of where we're at financially. We've set our initial fiscal committee budget deadlines, meaning all bills that deal with any fiscal matters have to be introduced by March 25. So that's the day that ... the House will have our version of a state budget, and a balanced budget without income tax increases.
Crann: In your caucus in the House, do you sense that there is any room for compromise at all on the revenue side, on raising revenue somewhere to help close this gap?
Daudt: You and I have talked about that in the past. My caucus feels like Minnesotans are struggling and now is not the time to increase taxes ... Are there some other options out there for additional revenue? There may be. Is there an appetite for that? I maybe can't speak for the whole caucus, but at this point I think tax increases are not something that we're looking at.
Crann: So when you look at budget gap this big ... the governor on the tax increase side and the Republicans on the side of, 'Just do it with cuts,' how realistic is either one of those options?
Daudt: It's a good question. And what I'm learning down here is a lot of the discussions we have are about semantics. And 'cut' is a word we hear so often. You know, the last biennium we had $30 billion worth of revenue. This biennium we're projected to have ... $32 billion in revenue. That equates to somewhere in the neighborhood of about a 6 percent increase. That effectively means the state of Minnesota has 6 percent more revenue to deal with this biennium than we did in the last.
What the governor proposed was a 22 percent increase in his budget. So that's how you come up with ... a budget deficit like this. think that $6.2 billion number equates to something like about a 28 percent increase in spending over the last biennium.
When you ask families and you ask businesses out in the state of Minnesota, 'Are you able to live within your means if we were to give you 6 percent more money from your employer?' I think you'd hear a resounding 'Yes, absolutely.' But I think people feel that it's unreasonable to think that the state government needs to grow at a 22 percent clip. So I don't think there's an appetite for that with the general public.
Crann: As a newcomer, this is your first term, how would you characterize the tone of the session so far?
Daudt: It's been interesting. I feel like the committees have had a lot of ... 'get you up to speed' kind of informational committee hearings, where we've had different departments coming in and giving us background information on what their department does. ...
It's been fun and it's been interesting, and I've really enjoyed getting to know my fellow members from different parts of the state, and really hearing the issues and things that they're concerned about and the things that affect their areas. I've been able to make a lot of friends really on both sides of the aisle, and looking forward to continue that and work ourselves through these difficult situations and issues that we're dealing with, but overall it's been good.
(Interview edited and transcribed by MPR reporter Madeleine Baran)