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Pioneer Editorial: GOP budget offers little compromise

Minnesota House and Senate Republicans finally put their budget ideas on the table Thursday, so the hard work of the legislative session can begin. But looking at what those budgets say, it will be hard to find compromise with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

Both budgets balance only with spending cuts -- no tax increases, in keeping with the eight-year pledge of former GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Both budgets don't figure in inflation increases, so they stop at $34 billion rather than $37 billion as does Gov. Dayton's proposal.

The cornerstone of the Dayton budget are new tax revenues from the state's richest, roughly the top 5 percent. The House GOP in what DFL Minority Leader Paul Thissen calls "a misdirection" proposes a $300 million tax cut for low-income and middle class taxpayers. But that only means the GOP found $300 million in more spending cuts elsewhere.

Both the Senate and House plans mean higher taxes elsewhere, whether it be in property taxes or higher college tuition. The Senate GOP proposes about an $800 million cut in tax aids and credits spending, with much of that Local Government Aid to cities and meaning higher property taxes to replace lost LGA.

Minnesota mayors apparently have the support of Gov. Dayton, as they met with him Wednesday. He is proposing no change in LGA. While Republicans argue that cities need to tighten their belts, that's exactly what they've done the past eight years as LGA has now been cut about $1 billion. Bemidji Mayor Dave Larson said that the city's workforce of 100 has been sliced to 88 workers. There is no more fat to cut, only bone.

The same is true for higher education. Bemidji State faces a $5 million budget cut and is cutting programs under a "recalibration" plan. The Senate GOP would cut higher ed 16 percent in the next biennium, which can only be made by dropping more programs or campuses, or again boosting tuition to unaffordable levels.

State environment and energy spending would see a 29 percent decrease and transportation a 16 percent decrease. K-12 education would see a 3.5 percent increase, but the education payment shift from this biennium continues through the next biennium, money that school districts had to borrow at interest to replace the state money.

Health and human services spending would increase 5.9 percent, but fails to recognize the full increase of people seeking services as demographics change. The Dayton administration has budgeted $1.5 billion more in entitlement spending.

It is good that the Republicans have set some targets; we only hope that they get fully aired by committees and that they have the flexibility to listen to those who will testify on how the cuts will hurt them.

We hope the House and Senate leadership isn't unyielding in its budget, which can only cause irrevocable harm to Minnesota's future prosperity.