Just saying no

By just saying no, over and over again, the Republicans got another Pawlenty-style, one-time fix that shifts the state’s budget problem two years into the future. The budget deal, with details still to be ironed out, will definitely balance the budget on the backs of schools via the “shift” of education funding into the future, which means schools will have to borrow money and pay interest, enriching lenders at the expense of schoolchildren and government. Budget cuts will also get written into the deal, though precisely what those cuts will be is not yet clear.

For maybe the first time, I agree with Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers: it’s “a deal we all can be disappointed in.” His party’s intransigence, of course, made that disappointment inevitable.

After two weeks of government shutdown, Governor Mark Dayton gave up on tax increases on millionaires. While Dayton said that he was accepting the June 30 Republican offer (they made no new offers since then), he did insist that Republicans drop their social policy demands and agree to a $500 million bonding bill. They also agreed to drop their demand for an across-the-board 15 percent cut in state employees.

Now that the governor and GOP leadership have agreed on a framework, they have to iron out the nitty-gritty details, and then call a special session and get the legislature to pass the bills. Can the Republicans hold their caucus to the leadership bargain? How many DFLers will vote against the deal? Not clear at this point, but the bottom line is that the shutdown continues until the bills are passed and signed.

Some of the early DFL reactions:

State Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL – Golden Valley):

Using tobacco bonds and borrowing from our schools to balance the budget would make for the most irresponsible budget in our state’s history.

We have never borrowed money against future revenue to fund current operations in the history of the state. When Governor Pawlenty proposed this scheme, nearly every legislator voted against it. In addition, borrowing nearly half of the annual school funding from school districts will cause chaos for our schools and mortgage our children’s future.

More debt and more borrowing only make this bad situation worse. We should expect bond ratings agencies to further downgrade our state’s rating, as they rightfully should if we continue to neglect the realities of the budget crisis facing our state. Starting with the Jesse Ventura rebate checks, Minnesota has steadily marched down a path toward a fiscal crisis, like we have seen in other dysfunctional states.

This budget agreement compromises our state’s future.

State Representative Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville):

Like the governor, I cannot and do not agree with the Republican proposal he accepted today. This Republican budget uses one time funds as a stopgap measure for the state budget while stealing future revenues from our students when Minnesota schools are already at a tipping point.

The proposed school district borrowing is an egregious example of misplaced Republican priorities. Republicans would rather take money from our kids and their schools in order to protect millionaires and special interests. Further delaying payments to our schools with absolutely no way to pay them back is unconscionable and robs our children of a quality Minnesota education. Metropolitan school districts last fall spent over $5 million to borrow money the state stole from them. Additionally, Fitch Ratings cited the state’s school shifts as one of the factors it considered when it downgraded Minnesota’s bond rating last week. Schools cannot afford to spend limited state funds to borrow even more money.

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