FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 30, 2014 MEDIA CONTACT: Katie Fulkerson, 651-296-5133 In anticipation of Gov.
Dayton's speech tonight (and recognizing everyone in the state of hockey will be cheering for a Wild victory tonight), Republicans in the Minnesota Senate are pleased to release an advanced copy of our vision of the state of the state.
The Republican State of the State
As Republicans, we are naturally inclined to be optimists and see the good in people, families and our communities – so in our view the state of the state is strong. The question is whether the path the Governor has chosen will keep Minnesota strong for the next decade and provide opportunities for our citizens to prosper. Let’s recall recent history – it was the last budget that produced the current surplus. It was the Republican budget, opposed by Gov. Dayton, that held spending in check and did not raise taxes, allowing our economy to grow and recover. It was a Republican budget that paid back the school shift and filled up the depleted budget reserves. In the middle of this recovery, Gov. Dayton and the Democrats decided to raise taxes over $2 billion – hitting all families and businesses, not just the rich as he promised. Before the ink even dried on this budget, Republicans joined farmers, small businesses and hard-working taxpayers across the state in calling for the immediate repeal of the most harmful tax increases. We are pleased the governor and the DFL majorities followed our lead and adjusted some of the unnecessary tax increases of the 2013 session.
But with the national and state economies improving, we could have done so much more this session. Instead of simply fixing last year’s mistakes we could have acted positively to improve our future. Republicans in the Minnesota Senate put forward a comprehensive plan to address the projected $1.2 billion surplus by “putting families first.” The centerpiece of the plan is a permanent half-percent cut to the state sales tax, reducing it from 6.875 to 6.375. Every time a family shops at Target or Best Buy, they would benefit from this sales tax reduction. Republicans support keeping that money in the Minnesota economy, in the pockets of hard working taxpayers across the state, not in the control of big-spending politicians in St. Paul. The sales tax reduction builds on successful Republican efforts to repeal the new taxes on farm equipment repairs and warehousing and fully conform the state income tax system to the federal government. These small changes, while welcome, will not help our national job rankings improve. For example, Minnesota is dropping from 45th to 49th in the Small Business and Entrepreneurship ranking, even before they factor in the recent 54% increase in the minimum wage. We also announced support for a $200 million increase in transportation spending, specifically targeting needed work on roads and bridges. The spending will be offset by requiring the Minnesota Department of Transportation to deliver on its promise of a 15% reduction in costs due to spending efficiencies. Everyone agrees we need to spend more on our roads and bridges, especially in Greater Minnesota. Putting families first means lowering commute times and getting people home from work faster and safer. Lastly, our Families First agenda included funding for the 5% campaign to make sure caregivers for our family members and seniors across the state could receive a much-deserved raise. Even though today’s state of the state speech is one of the latest on record, there is still time to call your legislator or Gov. Dayton and urge them to drop their plans to spend more than half of this year’s surplus. State government is already growing more than 10% because of their 2013 budget – not many families or businesses are seeing that kind of growth in their own budgets. Minnesota families need this money more than state government.
Unfortunately, it is too late to stop the most wasteful and unnecessary spending project in recent memory – the new Senate office building. Because Gov. Dayton needed to double his office space in the State Capitol, the Senate will soon move into a brand new building across the street, costing taxpayers $90 million. Republicans never supported this plan but unfortunately lacked the votes to stop it. We were disappointed in the lack of time and attention Gov. Dayton paid to two very important issues in both his speech and his legislative agenda – healthcare reform and education reform. We did not hear a clear vision for the future of healthcare in Minnesota. We didn’t hear solutions for people who are now stuck without a way to obtain health insurance until 2015. Instead, we are stuck in the middle of a horribly failed federal government experiment to take over Minnesota’s nation-leading healthcare system by replacing it with MNsure. We spent $160 million building a website that didn’t work and in the process 280,000 Minnesotans lost their healthcare plan or doctor. This is not what Gov. Dayton promised us in previous state of the state speeches. In his first speech in 2011, Dayton proclaimed that all Minnesotans need and deserve access to quality healthcare professionals, clinics and hospitals at the most affordable prices. In last year’s speech, Dayton promised that MNsure would provide healthcare to an additional 145,000 poor Minnesotans who do not have insurance today. Unfortunately, due to the implementation of Obamacare in Minnesota, known as MNsure, costs are going up for everyone and access is becoming harder. And there is no record of any uninsured Minnesotan gaining insurance through MNsure. Republicans offered many ideas to reform and fix our healthcare challenges and we will keep working hard to return Minnesota to our nation-leading position in quality, access and affordability. But to date, the Democrats have listened to very few of our ideas and wonder why MNsure is failing. Republican ideas are also not being heard when it comes to education reform.
For example, what did we hear tonight about closing the achievement gap? More spending? Spending alone won’t help Minneapolis improve its graduation rates for minorities and poor kids. While the rest of the nation is strengthening their academic standards and accountability systems, Minnesota Democrats, lead by Gov. Mark Dayton have been weakening the standards in Minnesota. They weakened accountability for teachers by allowing them to enter the classroom before they pass a basic skills test and are delaying the implementation of teacher evaluations. And they weakened accountability for students by removing the requirement to earn a passing score on a statewide exam in reading, writing, and math before graduating. Republicans, on the other hand, understand the most important factor in a child’s success is the quality of the teacher in their classroom. We will continue to strive for excellence by setting high standards for our teachers and students. So from the Republican perspective, the state of the state is strong. But we have concerns for the future. More money and good intentions are not enough – we need ideas and solutions that actually work to keep our state on the path to growth and opportunity in the years to come. As we get ready to cheer on the Minnesota Wild, we acknowledge that Colorado is a good team, but expect the Wild to be great tonight. In the same way, Republicans think the state of the state is good, but hope and expect Minnesota to be great. ###