Democratic and Republican legislative leaders on Friday framed their reactions to Gov. Mark Dayton’s sweeping budget proposal with very different questions.
DFL leaders say they support many of the “values” included in the governor’s budget – even if they plan on coming up with their own proposal.
Dayton’s proposal includes more than $3.5 billion in tax hikes and $1.4 billion in property tax relief.
DFLers said they were still taking the temperature of their caucuses on the governor’s controversial sales tax expansion and other revenue increases.
Democrats, who decried the GOP’s “all-cuts” budgets of the past, asked: Where, specifically, do Republicans want to cut in this budget?
“I’ve been in this Legislature for five years and that’s all we’ve done is cut, and we’ve hurt people,” Senate Deputy Majority Leader Jeff Hayden said. “We’ve hurt people to the bone, and I think that when people continue to say cut — it’s almost cliché that they want to cut. But the question I start to have is then, ‘Cut what?’ So those are the hard questions that you have to have.”
Republican leaders, meanwhile, criticized the budget as a tax-heavy plan that will damage Minnesota’s slowly improving economy.
They said the proposed spending increases come without any meaningful reform elements and asked: How will the higher taxes and bigger budget benefit the state?
“I think the important question for the people of the state is: How is all this increase in spending and increase in taxation — how does this improve what the state is doing?” Senate Minority Leader David Hann asked. “That’s the question. This is called an investment. How does it make things better?”
Democrats reiterated that Dayton’s plan was a starting point. Two potential areas where DFL legislators may deviate from the governor’s proposal are property tax relief and repaying money borrowed from Minnesota’s schools.
House lawmakers — both Democrats and Republicans — have been lukewarm on Dayton’s delayed school-shift payback, which would push the final resolution till 2017.
The first House bill called for paying back roughly $550 million of the shift by the end of 2015. Majority Leader Erin Murphy wouldn’t commit to a specific timetable on Friday, but said: “I think we’d like to be a little more aggressive than [the governor’s plan].”
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said he was pleased to see the shift was a concern of Murphy’s. But rather than increase taxes to pay down the borrowing, Daudt said the state should tap its budget reserves.
Hayden said members of his caucus were interested in looking at the property tax relief in the governor’s budget, which would allow up to a $500 rebate for homeowners. DFL lawmakers have questioned whether the property tax relief should be means-tested or targeted at specific income brackets.
Hayden and Murphy also declined to say whether the governor’s $37.9 billion spending target would fly.