Rep. Patricia Mueller: Priorities in St. Paul misaligned with the needs of Minnesotans

Published 5:24 pm Friday, April 19, 2024

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17.5 billion dollars in a historic surplus; 10 billion dollars in new taxes and fees; A nearly 40% increase in government spending overall and yet the governor and legislative majorities want to spend more. Clearly, spending is not the roadblock preventing the Minnesota legislature from solving all of the state’s problems. So, what is?

Priorities in Saint Paul have become completely misaligned with the needs of our state. As we stare down a looming deficit, this year’s supplemental budget bills could be critical in easing or worsening a future budget shortfall.

Originally the governor proposed $226 million in his supplemental budget proposal. The house majority chairs have now run the number up to over half a billion dollars.

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To add insult to injury, many of the real problems Minnesotans are facing are hardly addressed in the ballooning supplemental budget, instead opting for an approach to placate every department with a spattering of extra funding.

Three areas where this scattered strategy is most egregious are public safety, transportation, and education.

This week we passed the public safety policy bill with bipartisan support that addresses several concerns of the public safety community. Unfortunately, one issue that we’ve heard from countless departments is the need to invest in higher-grade armor and equipment that is currently not permitted in last year’s funding and vital investments in the Emergency Response Personnel (ambulance).

Though House Republicans have introduced numerous bills and amendments to correct this bureaucratic red tape the majority has voted against it every time.

Roads and bridges are an essential responsibility of government, yet numerous roads are under-maintained, and a frightening number of bridges are categorized as “poor” by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

These are critical pieces of infrastructure that countless Minnesotans use every day to get to work, bring their kids to school, and transport the goods we need to live.

Even with a dedicated auto parts sales tax and an inflator on the gas tax, money in the transportation budget is getting prioritized elsewhere.

The prime example of this mis-prioritization is the Southwest Light rail project which is now multiple millions over budget and facing even more setbacks that have cost Minnesota taxpayers.

Possibly the most egregious of all is the failed priorities of last year’s “historic investments” in education that have left school districts across the state struggling to balance budgets under the weight of added mandates and bureaucratic growth at the Minnesota Department of Education.

With over 60 new mandates and MDE receiving over 20 million more to add over 70 new positions, schools are grappling with what or who to cut to make ends meet.

As the final suite of supplemental budget bills comes to the house floor, I will continue to hold my position that our state budget should be focused on the core functions of government.

We should be fiscally responsible stewards of everyone’s tax dollars and focus on priorities that do the most good for all of Minnesota.