Emmer releases budget targets

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer today bet his campaign on whether Minnesotans will accept a state budget for the next two years that cuts spending on higher education, aid to cities and counties and state agencies. His plan (read the release from the campaign here) would also slash projected growth in spending on health and human services progams and continue a spending delay for Minnesota schools.

Emmer laid out the broad strokes of his budget on the same day that DFLer Mark Dayton acknowledged his plan to raise taxes on the state’s highest earners doesn’t raise as much money as he thought.

Emmer says the state has to live with as much money as it is due to collect over the next two years and no more. He laid out broad targets for where he would spend that $33 billion dollars, but said the details of which programs would be cut and how they would be cut will have to be worked out with the Legislature next year.

Some of what Emmer proposes are real cuts–higher education, for example would get about $300 million less in the next biennium than it gets now. Aids and credits to local governments would see an actual cut of $550 million and state agencies would see a cut of about $550 million.

But Emmer finds big money in slowing projected growth in spending. Specifically in the area of health and human services, which is projected to grow by nearly $3 billion in the next biennium, Emmer’s plan allows for growth of only $667 million. Emmer would not say whether that limited growth means fewer people would be eligible for state health programs or whether they would see lower benefits.

“We have set the most aggressive budget targets,” Emmer said. “We have also told you that one of our priorities is that we work with both parties because you have the Legislative bodies and we’re not going to tell them that their ideas are not welcome here. But you must live within your means. In this case, we have shown you that this is what can be done and will be done if we’re in the office.”

Emmer announced earlier that his budget plan would hold the line on spending for K-12 schools and that he would not begin to fix a delay in state spending for schools until 2014.

While Emmer gave only broad numbers of his proposal, he said he was still being more specific than his major party opponents, Democrat Mark Dayton and Tom Horner of the Independence Party. Both Dayton and Horner have proposed raising taxes. Emmer’s plan includes a tax cut of more than $600 million for businesses.

“Sen. Dayton and Tom Horner have announced their budget priority: preserving the status quo in government,” Emmer said. “They are both members of the political class, who think raising taxes on hard-pressed Minnesotans is better than asking government to become more efficient.”

Emmer’s budget announcement comes on the same day that Dayton announced that his plan to raise income taxes on Minnesota’s top earners is well short of projections. The Department of Revenue analyzed Dayton’s tax proposal and said it would generate nearly $1.9 billion over the next two years. Dayton has claimed the income tax hike along with a variety of other tax increases would produce double that.

Neither Dayton nor the Independence Party’s Tom Horner have commented on Emmer’s budget plan yet.

Update: Horner said he doesn’t think Minnesotans will accept Emmer’s plan because it makes deep cuts in health care, aid to cities and counties and higher education:

“It leaves people who are trying to go to college out in the cold. He’s got to raise tuition rates through the ceiling. It says to Greater Minnesota “the jokes on you” and leaves them in the lurch. It’s gong to say to nursing homes in the state, 28% of which are already in financial peril, we’re going to push you off the cliff.”

Horner also emphasized that he doesn’t think the Legislature would pass this plan because the cuts are too deep to core government programs.

Update: Dayton’s campaign manager released this statement on Emmer’s budget plan:

“Rep. Emmer’s plan will cut funding for Higher Education by 14%, K-12 Education by 14%, and Local Government Aid by 33%. He will thus cause huge increases in property taxes, higher college tuitions and seriously damage the quality of education throughout Minnesota. Furthermore, his drastic cuts in funding for Health and Human Services will restrict access to essential health care for those most in need.

By contrast, Mark Dayton will invest in better education and new jobs. He will protect middle-class taxpayers by making our tax system fairer, while Tom Emmer will raise property taxes and Tom Horner will expand the sales tax.”