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Rep.: GOP playing ‘shell game’ with budget

DFLer Falk says Republicans’ latest proposal simply shifts potential cuts to other areas

June 10, 2011
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

District 21A House Rep. Chris Swedzinski is holding out hope that Gov. Mark Dayton will approve the Republicans' recent funding proposal for schools, courts and public safety - cops, kids and courts, as Swedzinski calls it - but with just three weeks left before a possible shutdown of state government, the pressure is mounting on both sides.

"Three weeks is a long time; we can have a lot of meetings and hope to do some good in that time, but there are 12 to 13 steps in a flight of stairs and we've got to take them one at a time," Swedzinski, R-Ghent, said Thursday. "Hopefully we can get through to the governor at least on these three bills and move on from there."

Republicans continue to choose not to move on an overall spending cap of $34 billion, while Dayton has said the budget needs to include new revenue, possibly new or increased taxes, which Republicans have said they would not do.

Republicans called their latest offer a legitimate compromise and say that meeting Dayton's budget proposals in K-12 education, public safety and the judiciary would amount to $110 million more than they initially wanted to spend in those areas.

Their offer includes an increase in school funding by $80 million and an increase by $30 million in public safety and courts. This would represent almost half of the state's general fund budget.

"We really hoped the governor would consider this an olive branch of compromise," Swedzinski said. "We've given him what he wants as far as finances in three very important bills and have added dollars to the pot, which is part of the process. At the end of the day the governor wants to raise taxes and we are not going to. We are trying to work with him with the dollars that we have."

House 20A Rep. Andrew Falk said the Republican offer is nothing more than a "shell game" with numbers.

"They said they would meet him on his numbers on courts and education but that was by making other cuts elsewhere," said Falk, DFL-Murdock. "The number is still the same. They're agreeing with the governor on these areas so in that sense it has helped the process, but it means we're getting farther apart on other areas."

Falk said Dayton wants Republicans to put revenue on the table because he won't sign a budget without added revenue, which he has proposed the state get from higher taxes to the top 2 percent of wage earners in the state.

The Republicans' proposal, Falk said, balances the budget on the backs of people who can least afford it through higher property taxes and reduced LGA.

He said their proposal would increase property taxes by $1.3 billion over the next three years.

Swedzinski said he tries not the think about a shutdown in state government but realizes it is becoming more and more of a reality as each day passes with little or no progress. The state must have a new two-year-budget in place by July 1.

"A shutdown is not good for the governor, it's not good for the House or Senate members and it's especially not good for state employees," Swedzinski said. "I was just visiting with someone from the DNR in Marshall and he was telling me how it would impact him. Businesses are really worried; they're waiting to find out what is going to happen. As job creators, they have to know what the environment is going to be before they make decisions. If they're just waiting, potential jobs just aren't happening."



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