Rep. Patricia Mueller: A need to rein in spending

Published 4:49 pm Friday, March 31, 2023

As you undoubtedly have heard, this legislative year has been quite the whirlwind. Since the majority party holds power in both legislative bodies and the governorship, they have worked overtime to push as many bills as possible through the committee process. The results of cramming agendas have been limited discussion by both legislators and the public and poorly written bills. Because of their haste and zeal, many finance bills are often pushed through finance committees without a fiscal note.

This is irresponsible governing.

Last week, the House, Senate, and the governor published their “Global Agreement,” which sets the budget for the next two years and provides financial targets for each committee. These targets show that the majority party is determined to spend every dollar of our surplus. As a matter of fact, some people believe that our two-year budget could expand to near $70 billion dollars, which is an increase of $18 billion dollars over the last biennium. This amount of spending is unsustainable and unprecedented.

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 Our surplus is the result of an infusion of money from the federal government. Because Uncle Sam provided billions of dollars in COVID relief, the state of Minnesota was able to collect billions of dollars of taxes. This surplus is the result of overtaxing this influx of federal money. That means any spending should be carefully considered and limited to one-time expenditures. However, the targets not only include an increase of government spending, but much of that spending would be ongoing. And, unlike the federal government, we have a state constitutional requirement to have a balanced budget. So, we are heading towards a fiscal cliff.

 Since the majority party has increased spending and expanded government so much, it will require more revenue in the future. That will be collected through an increase of taxes. But the more the citizens of Minnesota are taxed — especially our businesses and seniors — the more they will choose to live other places. We have already seen a net loss of about 20,000 people in the last year alone. When more people leave, the government does not have a strong base of people to fund the government.

 We need to reign in government spending. We need to audit our agencies to ensure spending is directed to core functions of government and prioritize funding towards essential needs. Legislators must look at the root cause of problems or issues because sometimes the solution is not more money but actually structurally changing how government works — removing barriers and regulations and mandates and roadblocks. It is essential for legislators to examine complex issues critically before deciding how to spend YOUR tax money to limit unintended consequences.

 I want to honor you and recognize that the government does not make money. It spends YOUR money. Let’s remember that present spending decisions will have significant future impacts. I will continue to fight for a limited government that is fiscally responsible. What I have seen so far, that is not the priority of the majority party.