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The state budget dance begins

The major task of the 2021 session of the Minnesota Legislature is to pass a budget for the next two years. With Democrats in control of the House and the governor’s office, and the Republicans in control of the Senate, this is a dance reminiscent of the “West Side Story” rumble between the Sharks and the Jets.

Gov. Tim Walz started the dance in January with his proposal for a $52.4 billion budget balanced by raising taxes on the state’s top 0.7% of wage earners and companies that have profited during the pandemic. He, of course, was working from the November budget forecast that predicted a $1.28 billion budget shortfall in the current biennium.

On Tuesday, Senate Republicans offered their budget proposal, a $51.9 billion budget that balances the budget without raising taxes. Republicans, of course, benefitted from the February economic forecast showing a $1.57 billion surplus instead of a deficit.

Republicans and Democrats are dancing around now with charges that Republicans, according to Democrats, are favoring corporations and the rich over the needs of the workers, families and small businesses who have been brutalized by the pandemic. Republicans say they are focused on helping the businesses hurt by closures, and don’t want to rely on one-time money coming in to the state.

We hope that behind the public pronouncements, the legislators and the governor can work on a workable budget that will get the job done for most Minnesotans.

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