A true budget solution not only balances our bottom line today, but it puts us on track for sustainability. The state budget package we passed this week gets us pointed in the right direction.
State spending was on pace to grow 180 percent in a little more than a decade and common sense – not to mention simple mathematics – tells us we simply cannot afford this trajectory, especially with fewer working people supporting an aging population. The state shutdown we just endured was painful and the original budget we proposed and Governor Dayton vetoed would have been a great solution in my opinion; however, the budget we now have in place has reforms that will improve service delivery and results.
Our new budget also gets a handle on spending growth, doesn’t raise taxes and has quality reforms in it for health care, education and government. For example, the Health and Human Services portion of our budget was scheduled for a 22-percent spending increase, but we reeled that in to a more sustainable 4.8 percent. The key to our accomplishments in this area allow us to move further in the direction of a patient-centered system so we can uphold our responsibility provide assistance to those who need it most. Our new budget protects funding for nursing homes, boosts rural pharmacies and minimizes reductions to the disabled. Perhaps the most important part is that it cracks down on welfare fraud and strengthens accountability.
Much has been made of the K-12 funding shift, but it is important to know our budget will provide an additional $50 per pupil to the formula. As much as I would have preferred to avoid shifting payments, I am glad we are putting funds on the front end to help districts. We also are implementing new accountability programs and relieving schools of costly mandates to provide budget flexibility.
These are tough economic times, for sure, and compromise was a necessary part of the process. I am proud to be serving in the House during such a crucial point in state history. Spending in Minnesota has grown by roughly 500 percent since 1960, per capita and adjusted for inflation. I new this would be a tough session before I decided to run and I am confident that we have pulled down the unsustainable trend line of spending.
The bad habits by politicians of both parties in which they make promises in order to get re-elected have proven to be severely detrimental. The rate of growth is simply incredible and, when state spending outpaces available revenue at a rate of 3:1, reform must be a part of the budget solution. I am confident the improvements we have made will propel us into the new economy and keep Minnesota on the leading edge of productivity, growth, education and technology.
I thank all the folks who continued to offer me support during the regular session and as we worked for a budget solution. While we all can find things we dislike with the finished product, it was time to compromise, end the shutdown and help Minnesota get back to work.
Editor's Note: All information was taken from an email Rep. Kurt Bills sent out to subscribing constituents. The information was also posted as an Op/Ed Column on Bills' page on the Minnesota House of Representatives website.