GOP Rep. Kathy Lohmer vs. DFL HACK Leon Lillie– Their Take On The Budget Stalemate


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56A By Rep Kathy Lohmer

Last month, the Republican-led Legislature passed a complete balanced budget that increases state spending at the level Minnesotans can afford and sets our state on track for a sustainable future.

Unfortunately, a special session is at hand as the governor remains adamant on a nearly $2 billion tax increase to fuel 15 percent higher government spending. The governor has largely remained absent from the negotiating process, and is instead relying on a massive public (mis)information campaign and rhetorical tactics as he drives us toward a government shutdown.

The reality of the situation is that our budget represents increases spending above current levels to fund priorities, drives reform and doesn’t raise taxes.

Here a just a few reality checks about our budget.

The Numbers

Current budget we are living on: $32 billion ($30 billion state plus $2 billion federal stimulus money)

GOP proposed budget: $34 billion; 6 percent increase above current spending.

Gov. Mark Dayton/DFL: $36 billion; 12.5 percent increase

Myths and Realities

The Claim: GOP budget raises property taxes by $1 billion.

The Reality: Property taxes are dictated by local governments and all but three cities would receive the same state aid as 2010. The GOP budget realigns state government to economic reality and promotes an innovative environment that will help all levels of government become more efficient with existing revenues. Status quo doesn’t work in local government either.

The Claim: The GOP would rather protect the wealthy top 2 percent than the middle class.

The Reality: Gov. Mark Dayton’s new taxes would hit all Minnesotans from employees of large companies to small business owners to anyone who makes an online hotel reservation to downloading ringtones to snowbirds who stay in Minnesota for more that 60 days (instead of the current 6 months). The GOP is committed to protecting all Minnesotans from an uncompetitive business climate and promoting continued economic recovery.

After Maryland added four new tax brackets on high-income earners in 2008, the state lost $1 billion of its net tax base by residents moving to other states. That’s income that’s now being taxed and is financing services in Virginia, South Carolina and elsewhere. We are standing against tax increases in order to create a fundamentally growth-friendly environment that allows our families and job creators to thrive in the 21st century economy.

Adding a “snowbird” tax would hurt senior boomers who stay in Minnesota longer than 60 days and hurts the restaurants, tourism and charitable events they attend. That may be Arizona or Florida’s gain, but hardly good for Minnesota!

The Claim: The GOP cuts more that 30,000 jobs.

The Reality: That number is distorted and contrived. The GOP budget helps grow jobs in Minnesota by providing tax relief for job creators and removing the uncertainty caused by unsustainable government spending.

When it comes to our 15 percent state government workforce restructuring, this initiative can largely be achieved through attrition and by leveraging the wave of baby boom-generation state government retirees over the next few years. While the governor and other individuals have talked about reform, our budget makes reform real.

The Claim: The GOP more focused on social issues (marriage and abortion) than the budget.

The Reality: Within the first 100 days of session, the GOP passed a budget that reversed unsustainable spending, protected priorities and implemented significant reforms across all areas of government. While Dayton and Tom Horner have talked about reform, the GOP budget has done it!

We spent four months on budget issues, pro-growth initiatives like the nuclear moratorium repeal and promoted reforms like zero-based budgeting.

The Claim: The GOP cuts nursing homes and senior citizens

The Reality: The GOP health and human services bill increases funding to 69 nursing homes and provides stable financing for all with additional flexibility on how their funds are used.

Our budget in this area has more funding than current spending and allows for more latitude in how that money is used which allows our senior care providers to best serve our elderly.

The Claim: The GOP cuts funding for the disabled.

The Reality: The GOP health and human services bill would fund a $500 million increase from the current spending level. We focused on funding programs that work and have proven results. The GOP budget promotes paths to increased independence for disability waiver recipients by requiring more frequent evaluations and determination of level of need and is backed by priority-based policy and reform to ensure access, quality and value as we transform to a patient-centered system of care instead of just doing “things.” It is exciting to see our “graduates” in the disability community moving to independence.

The Claim: The GOP cuts education funding.

The Reality: The GOP budget increases state education funding by 3.2 percent compared to the last budget and for school districts it increased even more due to a change in the formula benefitting growth school districts. Our mission has been “kids first, no excuses, no exceptions.” Our budget includes the funding and the reforms to maximize our state education dollars.

The Claim: The GOP cuts aid to local government.

The Reality: The GOP Budget maintains state aid to local governments at 2010 levels for all cities but Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth—three of the largest tax-base cities. For all levels of government, we are implementing policy and pursuing innovation to reduce costs, promote efficiency and realign government to economic reality. Sherburne County city and county will get the same local government aid they received in 2010.

The Claim: The GOP cuts transit services.

The Reality: The GOP budget increases funding for local roads by over $100 million.

The Claim: The GOP budget shuts down government.

The Reality: Only Governor Dayton can cause a government shutdown. And the governor was already planning for a shutdown before session even ended. The GOP passed a complete budget that funds government and makes it sustainable.

If we have a government shutdown it will be thanks to a governor that says $34 billion—$3 billion more than the last budget—is not enough and sinks this state over a $1.8 billion tax increase. We know we can do better. Our budget is a fiscally responsible approach that funds priorities, promotes reform and sets our state up for a sustainable future. Governor Dayton is shutting down government just to raise taxes to make it even bigger.

Republican legislative leadership also went further this week by offering Governor Dayton another compromise proposal that increases K-12 education, courts, and public safety funding—all without raising taxes. These Minnesota priorities were already supported in our complete budget passed during the regular session, and now additional concerns expressed by the governor have been addressed.

As outlined in a letter to the governor, this new Republican offer includes an $80 million increase for K-12 education, while retaining our important education reforms. This new offer also provides an additional $30 million for public safety and the judiciary, in order to further strengthen these crucial state functions.

This new Republican offer represents yet another effort on our part to create a consensus budget funding priorities at the level Minnesotans can afford. After weeks of disengagement by the administration, I am hopeful the governor will now come to the negotiating table and work with us toward a budget rather than force a government shutdown.

The governor has often said that the top 2 percent of income earners can afford to pay higher taxes. But the Governor’s tax-and-spend budget proposal would hit all of Minnesota, including small businesses and the people who work for them.

And at the end of the day, this debate is not about what wealthy Minnesotans can afford. It’s about what our state can afford—today, tomorrow and 10 years from now. A 6 percent state budget increase is more than enough.

We’re not “cutting” as so many on the left say—we’re reducing hoped for increases, and delivering on the needs of our people instead of the wants of government.

As the budget process continues, I encourage you to stay informed and involved. Together we can bring responsibility back to St. Paul, job growth back to Minnesota, and create a stronger future for us all.

~~~~~And now for a stark deluded contrast in thinking; there is Leon Lillie’s reality–several bags short of full cargo bay.

Too much at stake to not fight for fairness

By Leon Lillie

State Rep. Leon Lillie
District 55A

The budget stalemate boils down to the same argument about taxes that we’ve been having for the last 5 months, if not the last 5 years or more. We adjourned on May 23 without a balanced budget and I’m very disappointed we couldn’t come to an agreement. Now at some point before July 1, a budget deal must be negotiated, or state government shuts down.

Keeping his central campaign promise, Governor Dayton proposed raising income taxes for the wealthiest Minnesotans as one part of a balanced budget solution. Originally, his plan would have raised taxes on the richest 5 percent. When a February budget forecast showed a smaller deficit, he substantially lowered his proposed tax increase.

Keeping another campaign promise that he would work with the legislature and work toward a compromise, Governor Dayton offered a new plan of half cuts and half new revenue. His compromise proposal raised the income levels where his tax increase would kick in, and would only affect the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans.

I support Governor Dayton. Minnesotans need to know that the wealthiest people in our state have paid a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than middle-class families. This is really not fair. I believe fairness to be a Minnesota value and all of us – including the wealthy – should be paying our fair share in taxes.

The Republican majority has flat-out refused to compromise. They sent the governor a budget that throws 140,000 people off of health care – and cuts $10 million from St. John’s Hospital right here in Maplewood – cuts 30,000 jobs, and raises property taxes by $1.3 billion, all to protect the richest 2 percent of Minnesotans. Republicans ignore the fact that taxes are at historic lows and trot out the same tired talking point that says taxing the rich causes jobs to disappear.

We’ve done it their way for the past 10 years. We’ve reduced taxes for the wealthy at the state and federal level and watched job after job disappear while property taxes skyrocketed, tuition increased dramatically, health insurance costs went through the roof, and our schools continued to struggle.

There is little to no evidence that raising taxes on the wealthy would drive them out of the state. Businesses come to Minnesota for our highly talented workforce, our high quality of life, and for the services provided by our state government. Good roads, good schools and colleges, accessibility to broadband, and access to health care are among many of the factors considered by companies looking to set up shop in Minnesota. State government and the taxes paid to state government help provide all of these, making it more attractive for businesses to locate here and create jobs here.

Governor Dayton has proposed a reasonable compromise that makes tough cuts while positioning Minnesota for long-term economic growth and success. Now it’s the Republicans’ turn to come to the table and compromise. We’ve done it their way for more than a decade and it’s gotten us nothing but job loss and a deteriorating state. I’m ready to go in a different direction.

As always, please feel free to contact me with your questions, suggestions and concerns. My office is room 281 in the State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-1188 and by email at rep.leon.lillie@house.mn. You can also monitor activities at the House, track bills, watch live video and sign up for my email update list by going to http://house.mn.

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