DFL: Expect new tax revenues, spending cuts in coming budget

Minnesotans should expect a budget that includes spending cuts, new revenues and plans, at least, for better funding for early childhood programs and higher education.

That was the word this afternoon from House Speaker Paul Thissen, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and other DFL leaders as they laid out legislative priorities for the new session.

Details were scarce, but here are some of the basics from the press conference.

Economy and budget

“We want to invest in the things that are going to grow our economy…and grow our middle class,” Thissen told reporters. Bakk said DFL leaders were working “very hard to engage the business community.”

At the same time, the challenges are immense. There’s a $1.1 billion projected deficit that needs to be erased. Factor in other obligations — including paying schools money that was held back from them to balance prior budgets — and it creates a budget problem approaching $4 billion, Bakk said.

“We are not going to pass a budget that relies on continued borrowing” or “accounting gimmicks” he added. “We’re going to pass a budget with new revenue in it and it’s going to have spending reductions in it.”

Thissen said lawmakers would seek to take the “squeeze off property taxes,” which rose for many Minnesotans as a result of deals to close the budget gap in 2011.

There’s interest in spending more on education, particularly early childhood and higher education. Thissen also said lawmakers want to want to find ways to make the state’s tax code more competitive.

University of Minnesota

Bakk expressed deep concern about a recent story in the Wall Street Journal about administration expenses at the University of Minnesota.

Bakk said he sent a letter to University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler asking for a report by mid-March on how U expenses compare to other Big 10 schools.. And he indicated the U’s success at the Legislature will be tied in part on how the university responds to the administrative spending questions.

You can watch the DFL press conference, as well as the GOP response, at The Uptake.