No spending increase in House GOP budget targets

Minnesota House Republicans rolled out a supplemental budget blueprint Thursday that proposes no net increase in state spending.

Their targets for finance committees include some increases, including a boost in rural broadband funding. But there’s an equal amount of cuts in other budget areas. State government finance, for example, is reduced by $9.5 million. There are also cuts in agriculture and public safety.

There’s no change in K-12 or higher education. Bonding is set at $600 million.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud,  said the plan would divide the state’s $900 million budget surplus between the two leftover items from last session: transportation funding and tax cuts.

“We otherwise had some significant increases in spending and other areas last year,” Knoblach said. “We’re looking at reallocating some within those areas to address new needs. But we don’t feel we need new spending beyond what was done last year.”

The House GOP targets contrast sharply with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposals. Dayton wants to spend $700 million of the surplus. His bonding bill proposal is $1.4 billion.

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Dayton declined the comment on the Republican plan until he had time to review it.“I’m glad we’re getting some real numbers now, so we can look at the reality of what their priorities are,” Dayton said.

Late Thursday, Dayton harshly criticized the Republican plan.  He released this statement:

“The House budget targets show a Republican Caucus focused solely on their own political futures, instead of Minnesota’s future. They invest too little in preK-12 education and nothing in higher education. They shamefully propose nothing to reduce racial disparities. Their bonding target of $600 million is even less than the $800 million they cited previously, and it would severely short-change such urgent needs as college and university campus improvements and drinking water treatment projects.

“Reportedly, they intend to spend this biennium’s entire $900 million surplus on tax giveaways and one-time transportation funding. I await their details on which tax beneficiaries they consider more important than the needs of our children and college students. I also keep waiting for their reliably funded, long-term solution to our state’s deteriorating highways, roads, and bridges and inadequate public transit systems.

“I also want to make it clear that I will not consider their grabbing money from agency and program budgets, which they passed and I signed into law last year. If there is anything constructive they wish to do for our state’s growing needs, it must come from real money, not from grabs and gimmicks.”

Senate Democrats plan to release their competing budget outline next week. DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said it will not look like the House plan.

“We have a $900 million surplus. I expect that we’re going to spend that among our spending divisions, and some cash in the bonding bill” Bakk said.

Bakk said the Senate plan will include some one-time spending to limit the impact on future budgets.