It is fall in an election year, and that means Minnesotans will find their mailboxes overflowing with fliers trumping up the accomplishments – or failures – of one lawmaker or another.
Such a flier from the Republican Party of Minnesota simultaneously praises the record of Rep. Diane Anderson, R-Eagan, and criticizes the record of former DFL Rep. Sandra Masin, who is challenging Anderson.
“Anderson worked successfully to turn the state’s $6.2 billion deficit into a $1.3 billion surplus,” one side of the flier reads. Flip it over, and it points out that Masin voted for “wasteful government spending, including a big brass band sheet music museum that drove up the deficit…”
Both of these claims contain some truth, but leave out key facts and context that might lead voters to draw different conclusions.
“Anderson worked successfully to turn the state’s $6.2 billion deficit into a $1.3 billion surplus,”
In November of 2010, Minnesota Management and Budget projected a $6.2 billion deficit, but that was later revised down to $5 billion in February of 2011.
Fast forward to November 2011, several months after the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton agreed on a balanced budget deal that cut spending, one that Anderson supported, and the state announced a $876 million surplus.
In February of 2012, the state announced that it had an additional $323 million on hand.
Tally that up, and it’s roughly $1.3 billion.
But here’s the rub: the money was already spoken for. According to state law, the money must be used to restore the state’s cash-flow account, pad its budget reserves and then start paying back money the state borrowed from schools to balance the budget.
In fact, the state is projected to have a $1.1 billion deficit for the coming biennium, according to the budget agency’s most recent projection. That forecast doesn’t include the $2.4 billion the state still owes schools or inflation.
Both Republicans and Democrats were quick to take credit for the brighter forecasts. Republicans, for instance, said they held the line on spending and taxes, while the Dayton administration said they did a better job of managing programs for the elderly, among other things.
In fact, much of the extra cash was from a combination of higher revenue, lower than expected enrollment in the state’s subsidized health insurance program, and federal dollars.
Masin voted for “wasteful government spending, including a big brass band sheet music museum that drove up the deficit…”
That year, the Legislature included $400,000 in its more than $900 million bonding bill for the library. Along with 90 other members of the state House, Masin voted for the vast bill that included money for many, many projects.
Ultimately, Pawlenty used his line-item veto authority to ax the Chatfield library cash, along with 54 other projects, so the project never contributed to the deficit as the flier states.
It’s true that the state budget has recently shown a positive bottom line- about $1.3 billion to be exact. But the money is already spoken for, so Minnesota doesn’t have a pot of unused money as the flier makes it sound. Further, the state is on track to have a $1.1 billion deficit next year.
The extra money was the result of lower state insurance spending, higher revenue and federal dollars.
As a result, this claim is misleading.
Meanwhile, Masin voted for a bonding bill that included money for the music library as well as numerous other bonding projects. Further, the library’s cash was vetoed by Pawlenty.
The second claim on the GOP’s flier is misleading because it lacks this important context.
This installment of PoliGraph was done with the help of MPR’s On Message feature. To learn more about how you can send us your campaign fliers, robocalls, and emails, click here.
Minnesota Public Radio, Minn. budget forecast shows $323 million surplus, by Tim Pugmire, Feb. 29, 2012
Minnesota Management and Budget, February 2012 forecast
Minnesota Management and Budget, November 2011 forecast
Minnesota Public Radio, Dayton, state lawmakers want credit for budget surplus, by Tom Scheck, Dec. 12, 2011
MinnPost, Pawlenty’s veto of unique music library hits sour note in Chatfield, by Joe Kimball, May 1, 2008
Minnesota House, roll call vote on HF 380, conference committee report, April 2, 2008
Minnesota House Journal, April 10, 2008, p. 9876
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Pawlenty slashes $200 million from bonding bill, by Mark Brunswick, April 8, 2008
Interview, Tom Hanson, Associate at Winthrop and Weinstein, former Commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget, Sept. 13, 2012
Interview, John Pollard, spokesman, Minnesota Management and Budget, Sept. 13, 2012
Email exchange, Heather Rubash, Sept. 13, 2012