Support the Minnesota Budget Project on Give to the Max Day

November 16, 2011

It’s Give to the Max Day, when thousands of Minnesotans say a special thank you to the nonprofits they value. Please add the Minnesota Budget Project to your list of donations today. Your gift will help us continue our work advocating for tax and budget decisions that invest in Minnesota and build a prosperous economic future.

Our work takes on special importance in these difficult economic times. The Minnesota Budget Project is out in front calling for a balanced approach that strengthens the building blocks of economic growth: high-quality schools, strong communities, educated workers and opportunities for all Minnesotans to succeed.

Here’s a quick reminder of what your contribution to the Minnesota Budget Project means:

  • You’ll support the timely non-partisan analysis of budget and tax debates that you count on at Minnesota Budget Bites.
  • You’ll support our work to stand up for balanced solutions that include fairly raised revenues. You’ll see us testifying at legislative hearings, talking to the news media, and ensuring that those whose voices aren’t always heard can be part of the debate.

Please make your tax-deductible contribution today!

Your gift today can work even harder because it makes us eligible for $1,000 prizes drawn every hour. Each donation to us – no matter at what time or how often – gives us one more chance in the drawing.

Our work depends on donors like you to step up on Give to the Max Day and year-round. Thanks for your support today!

-Nan Madden

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Going full circle on the cycle of advocacy – tell your story

October 6, 2011

As the leaves fall, many of us are bracing for the next legislative session and continuing our advocacy for critical state services.  But we also know that the cycle of advocacy is a complete circle—including raising awareness of the consequences of past budget cuts in order to strengthen our case for a balanced approach to meet our state’s future needs in the next budget.

If you are seeing first-hand how families and communities throughout Minnesota are suffering because of severe cuts in the state budget, your stories can help us ensure that the public and policymakers see the human impact of over $2 billion in budget cuts.

Together we can complete the cycle of advocacy and shape public opinion to prevent such severe cuts in the future. If you know about someone who was harmed by a budget cut, or if you or your organization has a story to share, please complete our online Tell Your Story form. We’ll be in touch after we receive your information to discuss ways to publicize it.

For more information, contact me at 651-757-3063 or lgardner@mnbudgetproject.org.

– Leah Gardner


A balanced approach to state budget winning hearts, minds and positive editorials

June 8, 2011

The Governor and legislature are at loggerheads over fixing the state budget.

Public opinion, however, clearly favors a balanced approach that preserves critical education services, public safety and health care with a mix of new revenue and spending cuts. In a recent Minnesota Poll, 63 percent of respondents supported a combination of revenue increases and spending cuts, and in a Public Policy Polling survey released June 1, a similar percentage supported a tax increase on the wealthiest two percent of Minnesotans over a cuts-only budget solution.

Newspaper editorials from across the state are supporting a balanced approach to meeting our state’s needs, noting the damage that a cuts-only approach would do to critical services and Minnesota’s economic future. Many also note that the legislature’s budget would simply shift more responsibilities to local governments and local property taxes. Just some examples include:

[W]hen times get tough, businesses and households don’t merely cut costs. They also look for ways to increase their income. We believe Minnesota should do the same. – Rochester Post-Bulletin, May 31

Property taxes on businesses and homeowners will rise. The cost of doing business will not only impact jobs, but also create an uncompetitive tax structure in outstate Minnesota. The stakes for outstate Minnesota have never been higher. – Mankato Free Press, May 24

The ‘no new taxes’  claim rings hollow. At best, it passes the buck (literally) to local jurisdictions…[I]t’s mystifying as to why Republicans are so wedded to no new taxes and a ‘cuts-only’ budget plan. From 2010 Election Day results to the latest polls, nothing points to a majority of Minnesotans approving of that strategy. – St. Cloud Times, May 18

[P]roposed GOP cuts in health care and income support for the poorest adults would push costs onto county balance sheets. The state’s three largest counties – Hennepin, Ramsey and St. Louis – would almost certainly see substantial property tax increases as a result. Other counties and regional hub cities would also be pinched by the GOP bills, and can be expected to respond by both cutting services and bumping up property taxes. – Star Tribune, June 2

A state that once invested heavily in education has seen its K-12 school funding slip to the bottom third among states. Higher education budgets have been gutted, forcing tuition costs for our young people to the highest levels in the nation for public colleges and universities…Governor Mark Dayton promised to stop the bleeding and return to a balanced approach to the state budget, that included a mix of spending cuts and tax increases on the wealthiest Minnesotans. Polls show clear majorities of Minnesotans support that approach. – Timberjay, May 27

There is scant evidence to prove that raising the tax rate on the highest earners drives wealth away. Companies locate in places like Minnesota for a variety of reasons, including workforce, quality of life and services available from entities like the government…It’s time for everyone to pay their fair share. – Winona Daily News, May 28

[W]e must seek to find a just framework for a budget that does not rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons. Those of us who are able must be willing to make shared sacrifices, including the raising of adequate revenues to pay our bills. – Archbishop John Neinstedt, Catholic Spirit

Now it’s your turn. As budget negotiations continue to come down to the wire and threaten a government shutdown, this is a critical time to join the public dialogue and raise awareness about what is at stake. Fire up your computer and send a letter to the editor expressing your concerns about proposed budget cuts and your support for a balanced approach, including new revenue, that maintains critical investments in Minnesota’s economic vitality and quality of life. Contact Leah Gardner for assistance and letter-writing tips.

-Scott Russell


Responsible federal budget choices must recognize the true contributors to deficits

May 12, 2011

Many in Congress are pursuing a radical deficit reduction strategy that would lead to massive cuts in education, affordable housing, environmental protection, law enforcement, services for people with disabilities, and other vital services. Such cuts would have a severe impact on Minnesota families and communities.

Such proposals are sometimes justified by arguing that the Obama administration’s response to the most severe economic recession since the Great Depression is responsible for the large federal budget deficits that we are now seeing.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, however, has released a new paper that sets the record straight. They note that much of the growth in the national deficit has its origins well before the Obama administration:

The deficit for fiscal year 2009 – which began more than three months before President Obama’s inauguration – was $1.4 trillion and, at 10 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the largest deficit relative to the economy since the end of World War II…

By themselves, in fact, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will account for almost half of the $20 trillion in debt that, under current policies, the nation will owe by 2019. The stimulus law and financial rescues will account for less than 10 percent of the debt at that time.

Clearly, one of the most important steps that Congress could – and should – take to reduce long-term projected deficits would be to allow the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to expire after 2012. We will not come close to reducing our long-term budget deficits unless Congress takes a balanced approach.

This is the case made by over 100 Minnesota nonprofits in a letter to our Congressional delegation. The letter calls for a responsible and balanced approach to deficit reduction, one that will not undermine the fragile economic recovery, is equally divided between spending reductions and increases in revenue, and that does not lead to an increase in poverty or inequality.

If your organization has not yet signed on to this letter, there’s still time to do so, as we will continue to make this case through the budget debate ahead and will provide an updated letter to our elected officials later this year.

-Steve Francisco


New analysis highlights dangers of proposed constitutional amendments

May 5, 2011

The legislature has been busy introducing constitutional amendments that would place significant constraints on the state budgeting process. Many financial experts point out that placing these strict limits in the state constitution would have serious long-term economic consequences. By restricting the use of available resources, amendments like these would slow down Minnesota’s recovery from a recession and prevent lawmakers from making investments that will keep the state competitive. Bond rating agencies frown on these kinds of restrictions, so the state would also likely face higher borrowing costs for infrastructure projects.

And adding restrictions in the constitution would lead to gridlock and gimmicks as policymakers struggle to balance the budget with fewer tools in the toolbox. Just as water forges a new path when it encounters an obstacle, so elected officials will try to find ways to meet the needs of their constituents. The danger is that they will turn to less transparent methods to avoid spending cuts they fear would fundamentally damage Minnesota’s economy. Policymakers have clearly demonstrated that they don’t need a constitutional amendment to force spending cuts or prevent tax increases; elected officials already have the power to do that.

So far, three different constitutional amendments have been introduced:

  • House File 1598/Senate File 1384 would require a three-fifths supermajority vote in each body of the legislature in order to pass a tax increase.
  • House File 1612/Senate File 1364 would limit all spending in the biennium to the amount of all revenues collected in the previous biennium. Excess revenues could only be used for two purposes: to pay back one-time shifts and to provide for the public peace, safety or health as a result of a declared national security or peacetime emergency.
  • House File 1661/Senate File 1378 would limit general fund spending in the biennium to 98 percent of forecasted revenues, with the remainder going into a reserve account. Any spending above the 98 percent could only be used to respond to emergencies and would require a three-fifths majority vote in both bodies of the legislature. Once the reserve account reaches five percent of state revenues, a reduction in the sales tax would be triggered.

We have developed several resources that highlight the problems created by these constitutional amendments (these resources, and others, are also available on our website):

  • Our testimony discusses our opposition to House File 1612, which was scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday evening (but was pulled from the agenda at the last minute).
  • A new issue brief examines the details of House File 1612/Senate File 1364.
  • Another new issue brief looks at how a constitutional limit on state spending has hurt Colorado’s economy.
  • And our position statement highlights reasons why amendments such as these are harmful to the state.

In addition, Wednesday’s editorial from the Star Tribune opposes constitutional amendments limiting state budget decisions, noting how they would “tie lawmakers hands.”

This is a critical time to call your state legislators and let them know that you oppose these constitutional amendments as unnecessary fiscal restraints that will make it nearly impossible to recover from a recession, undermine long-term investments in our families and communities, and cause gridlock as policymakers struggle to negotiate budget compromises with an empty toolbox.

-Christina Wessel


Join the discussion about what path the state should take

April 26, 2011

What’s the best way for the state to respond to these tough economic times and build a strong future? That’s been the central question that we’ve been addressing this year through our analysis and advocacy.

Once place that discussion is happening this week is through an online debate conducted by MPR’s Insight Now. Each day, Charlie Weaver of the Minnesota Business Partnership and I are contributing our thoughts to the discussion, and Minnesotans are invited to join in the conversation. I’m making the case for a balanced approach to meeting the state’s needs and laying out why the cuts-only alternative would be too damaging.

Add your voice to the discussion!

-Nan Madden


Make your voice heard in support of a responsible and balanced approach to federal deficit reduction

April 5, 2011

Our nation is starting to recover from the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression. Yet many Minnesotans are still struggling with unemployment, underemployment and rising costs for energy, housing, health care and other basic needs.

Right now, President Obama and Congressional leaders are struggling to come to an agreement on a budget for the remainder of the current fiscal year. If they are unable to come to an agreement, the federal government would begin a partial shutdown on April 9.

It’s more crucial than ever that Minnesotans weigh in and help break the stalemate. Your voice is needed to move us towards federal budget choices that protect the nation’s fragile economic recovery and lay the groundwork for a balanced approach to long-term budget deficits.

As Congress develops a budget resolution for next year, decisions should not be made that will undermine the fragile economic recovery now under way. Dramatic cuts in federal spending will be a drag on the economic recovery and could cost the nation much-needed jobs.

In the long-term, the federal government is facing a serious imbalance between spending and revenues. Long-term deficit reduction should be achieved through a responsible and balanced approach that is equally divided between spending reductions and increases in revenue. A one-sided approach to federal deficit reduction that focuses exclusively on drastic cuts and hard caps on domestic discretionary spending – the area of the federal budget including affordable housing, medical research, education, nutrition, environmental protection, energy assistance and other vital services – is both unwarranted and unbalanced. Such an approach will create significant hardship for the most vulnerable people in our communities and increase poverty.

The Congressional budget resolution for Fiscal Year 2012 will set spending ceilings for discretionary federal programs. These ceilings will have a direct impact on appropriations bills later in the year that will determine exactly how much federal money will be directed to our state and local governments. The federal budget and appropriations bills are particularly important this year, as our state and local governments struggle to balance their own budgets and maintain critical services for Minnesota communities.

Now is a critical time for your voice to be heard. Please add your organization to our sign on letter to the Minnesota Congressional delegation calling for a responsible and balanced approach to federal deficit reduction. The deadline to join our letter is noon on April 15.

-Steve Francisco

[Note: Since we first posted this blog, the deadline to join the sign-on letter has been extended to Friday, April 29.]


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