Investing today cushions the impact tomorrow
For the Minnesota Legislature, the next seven weeks will define the 2014 session. How we react to a significant budget surplus can and will set the course for Minnesota's future. While the final budget for the next biennium still is largely unknown, we do have a sense of the options laid out.
Governor Dayton has proposed an aggressive investment in Minnesota's future. Spending new monies on K-12 and higher education is not only popular but critical to our success as a state. Investing in transportation with new revenues from a constitutionally reliable fuel tax is unpopular but necessary.
In contrast, the House GOP have established budget targets that seem less focused on long-term stability and more geared toward short-term popularity with special interest groups. "Giving it back" always sounds good, but it will not sound nearly as good when Minnesota has to face a deficit in two years. Of course my constituents want to pay less taxes, but by and large they also want good public schools, roads and transit options, affordable housing and a future consisting of vitality, not the uncertainty and service reductions we will face with the GOP plan.
And just this past week, the Senate majority released its budget targets. Falling somewhere in between the governor and the House GOP, the Senate provides a reasonable and sensible approach to sustainability. I believe the Senate approach, at least through its established targets, recognizes the long-term need for Minnesota. Most people are willing to make sensible investments and by investments, I mean spending. Spending new money on education. Spending new money on aid to local governments, thereby keeping property taxes low. And in addition, we must set aside more dollars into the reserves.
Our economy has rebounded from the recession. Here in Duluth, the signs are nearly everywhere you turn. But not all areas of Minnesota are enjoying that. We know the economy is volatile and our friends on the Iron Range are feeling that every day as the price of taconite forces shutdowns and layoffs. By investing in economic development, and I mean smart development that includes Minnesota values, we can sustain a path forward that includes prosperity.
There will be a downturn again. It is inevitable. By being smarter today, we can minimize the impact later. The future is ours to shape, if we have the courage to do so.
Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, is the Minnesota state representative for District 7B.