Guest Opinion: Working toward a state budget that puts Minnesotans first
Last week, Gov. Tim Walz released his first budget proposal as our governor. State law requires the governor to present a budget to the Legislature in odd-numbered years. The proposal signals the governor's spending and policy priorities and helps shape the broader conversation around the capitol as legislators work hard to pass their own budget.
At the outset, I'd like to mention that there are a number of policy and funding initiatives in the governor's budget that I am supportive of. I'm not against all of his priorities. However, as a state legislator, it is my duty to keep my constituents informed and represent their concerns in St. Paul.
Ultimately Governor Walz's budget proposal misses the mark—especially as it relates to overall spending and his proposed tax increases.
In total, the governor's proposal would authorize $49.471 billion in spending for 2020-2021. This represents an 8.6 percent increase in spending from the current operating budget that was approved in 2017.
In addition to a massive increase in overall state spending, the governor is also proposing an extraordinary amount of tax increases.
His budget would raise the cost of gas, health care, and many other goods and services that Minnesotans and their families rely on. When all is said and done, it raises taxes by more than $3 billion over the next two years at a time when Minnesota has a substantial, billion-dollar-plus budget surplus.
He includes a massive 70 percent increase in the gas tax—one that would move Minnesota to the fourth highest in the nation. This regressive tax hits low and middle-income families and those of us in rural Minnesota the hardest. In addition to paying more at the pump, raising the gas tax will increase the cost of goods and services as well. At this point, this administration is untested and I hope the governor is willing to listen to the honest objections of many folks across Minnesota.
I agree with Governor Walz that our roads and bridges are in need of repair, but we don't need to raise the gas tax to pay for it. We already have existing revenues that can pay for road repairs such as sales taxes already collected for vehicle repair parts.
He is also proposing a $1 billion statewide property tax increase on businesses. Such a dramatic property tax increase will have a tremendously negative impact on our local businesses. These are the folks we depend on to provide jobs and wages for all of us.
Additionally, he hopes to reinstate the provider tax which would add more than a billion dollars to the cost of health care over the next two years. It goes without saying, but you don't lower health care costs by increasing health care taxes.
If the Walz budget were to become law, every man and woman in Minnesota would have to work harder to pay for the loss of income due to his proposed tax increases. Thankfully, the governor's budget proposal is just that—it's a proposal. I look forward to continuing to have conversations with my colleagues in the House and Senate and folks back home as we come to a reasonable budget that will put Minnesotans first.
Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, represents District 10A in the Minnesota House of Representatives