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Walz’s budget: OMG or DOA?

Gov. Tim Walz
On Tuesday, Gov. Tim Walz laid out how he would spend the state’s current revenues and proposed revenues.

It’s good to be the governor, especially when considering the timing of this year’s budget debate.

First, he’s first. On Tuesday, Gov. Tim Walz filled a large state Capitol room with reporters, commissioners, staff and those with a keen interest in that budget and laid out how he would spend the state’s current revenues and proposed revenues. For the rest of the 2019 Legislative session, all budget conversations start there.

“This is a strategic budget that allows us to maintain what we have while investing in the future,” Walz said of his plan for how to spend $49.5 billion over two years. “This budget is about building One Minnesota, the foundation of which is education, health care and community prosperity.”

This year, presenting his priorities first has another advantage for Walz. He gets to use the most recent forecast of state revenue collections over the two-year budget period,  which revealed a $1.5 billion surplus based on current spending. That December number might be something of a high-water mark since actual tax collections since then have been below forecast and threats of an economic downturn have grown more worrisome.

That has left Walz with the opportunity to produce a budget plan that increases spending in all the areas most dear to him and his supporters. In fact, it is difficult to spot a request that he said no to. When asked about budget cuts in his plan, Walz responded by saying that some programs didn’t get inflationary increases from current levels.

The numbers

The two-year budget includes inflationary increases plus $2 billion in new spending. Revenue would go up by $1.267 billion and the ending fund balance would fall from $1.54 billion to $790 million. But both the current budget and the proposed budget would be protected by a state rainy day fund of $2.425 billion.

Walz, the longtime public school teacher, increases basic school funding by 3 percent in the first year and 2 percent in the second at an increased cost of $523 million.

In health care, he replaces the existing health reinsurance plan with a subsidy program to reduce insurance premiums for those buying policies through MNsure. His budget also adds a state tax credit to cap those premium costs at 10 percent of a family’s income and — as promised during the 2018 campaign — sets up a program to let more people in the state buy those policies. In keeping with his campaign theme, that version of Medicare buy-in would be called ONECare Minnesota.

The list of proposals could fill a binder. In fact, it did. It was presented to reporters in a binder with a cover reading “Budget for One Minnesota.” There’s more money to subsidize child care. There’s a $284 million investment in affordable housing (through both preservation and new projects). There’s $70 million for a statewide broadband grant program. There are income tax cuts for middle-income wage earners, farmers and small business owners. There’s an expansion of eligibility to the working family tax credit. There’s a tax cut for those who pay income taxes on Social Security. There’s the first increase since 1986 in the basic welfare grant. There are increases in funding for the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State systems. And there are large increases in the money the state shares with cities and counties.

And that doesn’t even count transportation, which would be boosted by a historic 20-cent increase in the current gas tax of 28.6 cents per gallon; plus increases in car tab fees; plus a change in the way the state values cars; plus a Metro counties hike in the sales tax on car sales. All that not only raises more than $10 billion over 10 years — mostly for road and bridge construction and maintenance — but also for transit.

The gas tax hike would also have a positive impact on Walz’s general fund budget, since it would replace money recently moved from the general fund to roads and bridges.

That means that a big chunk of the money needed to fuel his budget plan has a questionable future. Senate majority Republicans have said no to a gas tax increase. And they have said no to extending the provider tax on health procedures and services. Combined, those sources bring in nearly $1.2 billion in revenue.

Walz also raises more money through his version of federal income tax conformity. While he said middle-class taxpayers left out of the federal tax reform will see decreases in their state taxes, other individuals and businesses would pay more.

Interest groups were understandably gleeful. Press releases flowed briskly following the presentation.

Planned Parenthood Applauds Governor Walz for Prioritizing Reproductive Health Care in His Budget”


“Minnesotans Praise Gov. Walz’s Budget that Protects and Expands Affordable Health Care”

“President Kaler: Governor Walz’s budget recommendation sincerely appreciated”

“CGMC President: Governor’s budget proposal makes key investments in Greater Minnesota”

“Minnesotans for a Smoke-Free Generation Applaud Governor for Quit-Tobacco Support”

“Governor Walz Releases Budget to Improve the Mental Health System”

“Education Minnesota supports historic funding increase for public schools”

“Governor’s Budget Proposal Reflects Housing as Urgent Priority for Minnesota”

“Governor Walz, Lt. Gov. Flanagan commit to affordable, accessible health care for all Minnesotans”

A ‘cold California’ 

Walz had a ready response to what he anticipated would be GOP criticism of his decision to go all in on funding the priorities he campaigned on, a response that is both true and blunt: He told voters he would raise the gas tax and increase spending on key programs — and he won the election. 

“Minnesotans spoke loudly, they spoke clearly, they value their quality of life, they understand what makes Minnesota different, they’re not tolerant of running up massive debts, but they want to make sure that we’re leading and competing on the toughest issues,” Walz said.

Is he OK with the state climbing the list of most-taxed states, perhaps from 5th to 4th? Walz said he was. “We are also in the top of health care outcomes, we’re near the top in education, we’re near the top in job growth and family incomes. All of those things come out of this,” Walz said. “What we’re proposing is a state that is invested in things that matter — education, health care and community prosperity.

“Even in a cold state that gets to 70 below, we are the only state in the Upper Midwest that has an influx of people coming in,” he said.

Republican legislative leaders appeared next and appeared surprised not at the increases in spending and taxation but at the scope of both. “His first budget is the kind of budget you get when you promise everyone everything,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa. “There are so many things here that it is hard to fathom how how much is there. I’m not sure if there’s anything the governor did say no to. I’m interested in that, but I don’t see anything in there.”

Gazelka said the budget puts the state on the path to being “a cold California.” And while there are items in the Walz budget that could get GOP support, he said it ends if higher taxes are required. “We have a $1.5 billion surplus, we have roughly $2 billion in reserves. The place to look for covering what all of us think are important is not more taxes,” Gazelka said.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said the budget puts the state on the path to being “a cold California.”
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt of Crown said his “jaw hit the floor” when he heard the numbers and borrowed a phrase used earlier by his Senate colleagues. “This doesn’t make us One Minnesota, this makes us One EXPENSIVE Minnesota.”

A bind for House DFLers?

Walz didn’t bring details of a proposed new bonding bill, but he did mention a price tag — $1.2 billion in borrowing for construction projects. Gazelka said that wasn’t going to happen, preferring the schedule of doing general budget in odd-year sessions and bonding in even years. Yet a lot of Walz’s proposals — in transit, in affordable housing, in economic development grants — are in the bonding plan, not the budget released Tuesday.

While the focus Tuesday was on Walz and GOP opposition in the Legislature, his budget plan put both House DFL leaders and Senate GOP leaders into something of a political bind. While House leadership supports many of the spending priorities expressed in the numbers, they have been skeptical about the solidity of the surplus. Not only did the surplus not take into account the inflationary pressures on current spending, but it may not be sustained in the next forecast, which is due Feb. 28.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt of Crown said his “jaw hit the floor” when he heard the numbers.
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt of Crown said his “jaw hit the floor” when he heard the numbers.
House Speaker Melissa Hortman of Brooklyn Park has also been less certain about a gas tax, saying only she sees the need and wants to look at ways to pay for it. Not only is 20 cents plus tab fees at the top of where anyone thought Walz would go, but Hortman’s members face voters two years sooner than Walz will, and the DFL majority depends largely on the freshmen who swung moderate swing suburban districts from GOP to DFL.

She and House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley praised Walz’s priorities and said they were “excited to work on behalf of all of us” without specifics on the revenue side.

The GOP also will have to say no to a lot of groups and causes that Walz said yes to. And GOP leaders have to sell a far less sexy message of tax burdens and affordability and sustainability than on all the benefits of higher spending.

Gazelka gave a typically understated prediction for how this budget would impact the rest of the 2019 session. “Every budget in divided government is difficult. We have two very different points of view and at the very end we have to come together and figure it out. I don’t know if this feels any different from any of the other ones.”

Comments (93)

  1. Submitted by Scott Walters on 02/20/2019 - 10:55 am.

    While I would love to see an even higher gas tax, I think a 10 cent bump, and then indexed for inflation going forward has a better shot. We definitely need to begin seriously ramping up the gas tax if we want to have a habitable planet for future generations.

    All in all, this seems like a good start. I was a big supporter of Representative Walz, and am glad to see that my support for him as governor was well deserved.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/20/2019 - 06:11 pm.

      SW we agree, Its all funny money anyway, ~ 2-3 weeks back 87 was what $2-04 today its ~$2.29 last fall Oct-Nov time frame it was what $2.79? depending on where you bought it. So from this perspective the Republicans basi8cally say, we want as much money going to the oil companies as possible and none used for investment into our infrastructure. Depending on who is looking, the tax is basically subsidized to free, because it forces the oil companies to hold their prices lower to maintain volume, that dam demand/supply curve! .

    • Submitted by Paul Lubbers on 02/21/2019 - 08:53 am.

      Spending over twice as much as the neighboring state with twice our population isn’t nearly enough.

      • Submitted by David Therkelsen on 02/21/2019 - 12:01 pm.

        Asking Mr. Lubbers, which neighboring state, exactly, is it that spends half as much and has twice the population? I can’t find one where this is remotely close to the truth. Perhaps there is a neighboring state that I’m not aware of.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/20/2019 - 11:10 am.

    Maybe we can assume someone is playing the longish game for a change. Let the Republicans shoot down this budget and use THAT fact to take back the Senate in two years.

  3. Submitted by cory johnson on 02/20/2019 - 11:37 am.

    Serious question: Why increase the gas tax? This has got to be one of our more regressive taxes. Are we trying to punish poor people for not being able to afford electric cars? Is he afraid of angering his rich Telsa-driving donors? This was the straw that broke the working class back in France.

    • Submitted by Nick Foreman on 02/20/2019 - 05:25 pm.

      Yes. No new gas tax. Instead every county should pay for all roads in each specific county. Each county should decide how to find money for its roads.

      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 02/20/2019 - 08:58 pm.

        I live in Hennepin county and would like to still ooasionally drive through Itasca county without a toll booth for non-county residents.

    • Submitted by Paul Lubbers on 02/21/2019 - 08:54 am.

      Why not tax bicycles riders? They use the roads too.

      • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 02/21/2019 - 01:28 pm.

        There is a sales tax that applies to bicycles, tires, etc.

      • Submitted by Dean Carlson on 02/25/2019 - 11:23 am.

        Maybe we should apply an impact fee on all vehicles using the road — bikes, cars, and trucks. Determine what each vehicle contributes to the degradation of the road and assess them the cost. While we are at it, apply a fee on each vehicle’s contribution to global warming.

    • Submitted by Charles Holtman on 02/21/2019 - 01:53 pm.

      It depends on the purpose. If the intent is to fund road maintenance, we should tax by mileage and weight. If the intent is to correct the market by internalizing the social costs of fossil fuel use, a gas tax is appropriate (and should be closer to $12/gallon).

  4. Submitted by Bob Petersen on 02/20/2019 - 11:56 am.

    The need for the government to spend more and more never stops.
    Things are good now so government wants more. When things aren’t going well and they are in a deficit, government asks for more.

  5. Submitted by David Broden on 02/20/2019 - 12:17 pm.

    A budget with a purpose to benefit MN citizens is a positive step. Perhaps many of us, I included have some concerns but those difference can be addressed as reasoned debate and discussion evolves in the legistative process. Let’ have positive debate with recognition that there is a role for govennment — certainly both parties – including the progressive GOP which shaped Mn would find much to like in the budget. There are two gaps or lack of consideration that should be added. First– MN must establish a budget component for both the emission control side and the what will the econmy be side of climate change- this seems to be missing. Second while more transportation revenue is a must and 20 cents may be OK — just and tax on gas is short sighted. We need to consider how we keep the revenue growth and capture funds even with increases in miles/gallon and expansion of electric vehicles.We need to expand revenue with consideration of miles driven and on gallons of gas consumed. A rigorous look and commiteemt to this must be part of the budget planning.

    Dave Broden

  6. Submitted by John Helgerson on 02/20/2019 - 12:20 pm.

    It seems that the GOP will never understand the economic realities of maintaining and improving highways and bridges. Construction companies have stressed time and again that uncertain funding is the most expensive way possible as it is nearly impossible to plan projects efficiently. While they decry any tax increases, the GOP approach means taxpayers are paying more than necessary for good roads and safe bridges, and other needs cannot be funded since the General Fund is raided..

  7. Submitted by David McCoy on 02/20/2019 - 04:00 pm.

    Higher license tab fees?!
    My car is three years old. It’s nothing fancy – aToyota Camry. Hardly a luxury vehicle.
    I am already paying the state $20 a month for my tabs. Walz thinks I should pay more?!

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/20/2019 - 08:42 pm.

      Just out of curiosity, how should we pay for roads?

      Should tabs be $10/year, and we pay for roads via other means?

      Two hundred forty bucks a year really isn’t all that much. Granted, it’s a fortune to some families. But then most of those families drive 10 y/o vehicles like mine, and pay $60/year.

      Rebuilding the 494/35W interchange will cost over $400M. That’s a lot of license tabs. At the current tax of 28.5 cents/gallon, it’s also a lot of gallons of gas.

      Usually at this point, someone will respond “they get plenty of taxes from us they just need to quite wasting it”. And my response is always great, show me the math on what you want to cut.

      • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 02/21/2019 - 01:57 pm.

        Agreed. We either collect enough revenue to perform upkeep on our roads or we start closing some roads. Minnesota is 5th in highway miles but only 22nd in population. Rural areas are shrinking in population which inevitably means reducing our rural road miles. The gas tax increase is required to maintain our standard of transportation in rural areas. It needs to be communicated that way.

        Many of these proposed policies are in place to prop up rural Minnesota and the bulk of the taxes will be paid by people in the Twin Cities metro area. It is a net transfer of income from urban to rural areas. If the people in rural areas aren’t interested in paying $10 more to get $20 in funding back I would rather invest in the urban areas instead. The return on investment is likely to be better if the money is spent on the urban core. We can turn MN-1 and MN-30 over to the counties and spend elsewhere.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 02/20/2019 - 09:00 pm.

      Yes, a dollar a day would stil be a bargain…

    • Submitted by Paul Lubbers on 02/21/2019 - 08:57 am.

      Again, license bicycles. They use the roads too.

  8. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 02/20/2019 - 04:06 pm.

    California is the 5th largest economy in the world. Should our model be Republican states like Mississippi and West Virginia with low taxes, high poverty levels and a dependency on transfer payments from the liberal states like California, New York and Minnesota?

    Republicans want to feather their own nests at the expense of average people who depend on high quality public schools, affordable healthcare and safe transportation. Life is full of enough potholes with those who love tax cuts failing to finance our common quality of life.

    Republicans, you got routed in the election and your close ties to our lunatic President endanger your party’s survival. Minnesotans want solutions, not excuses for inaction. Did you not get the message? Your negativity doesn’t cut it.

    • Submitted by cory johnson on 02/20/2019 - 07:03 pm.

      When accounting for housing costs, California has the highest poverty rate in the country.
      Fourth highest level of income inequality (NY is number one).
      It also has almost third of the nations welfare recipients even though it also has 12% of its population.
      And the middle class in California are escaping in droves.
      Not something we should aspire to.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/21/2019 - 10:13 am.

        Golly gee, they also have the highest population in the country and the highest GDP! and the highest concentration of millionaires. One would think this should be a right wing bastion with all the successful business success!

        • Submitted by cory johnson on 02/21/2019 - 11:20 am.

          People move there for weather and free stuff. This state is what happens with unchecked leftism: massive inequality and a disappearing middle class. And embarrassing public schools. Not for lack of taxes.

          • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/25/2019 - 09:05 am.

            Better to be like, MS, LO, AL SC etc. with unchecked rightism?
            Lowest, in education, growth, healthcare, income etc. etc. etc.

    • Submitted by Paul Lubbers on 02/21/2019 - 09:03 am.

      Evidently you haven’t seen the pictures of California streets. Last time I checked Virginia and Mississippi had paved streets and flush toilets. If we can get other states to send us money, I say take it.

  9. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 02/20/2019 - 05:32 pm.

    This is puzzling:
    “House Speaker Melissa Hortman of Brooklyn Park has also been less certain about a gas tax, saying only she sees the need and wants to look at ways to pay for it.”
    The way to pay for a gas tax is a gas tax, that is how a gas tax is paid for.

    While this budget will not be the one that is implemented, the 8.6% increase in biennial spending will probably be achieved. The House will propose more and the Senate much less. This continues the 4% plus per year spending increases of the last eight years. Is this sustainable? Without much more substantial tax increases?

  10. Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/21/2019 - 07:45 am.

    This should be doa. MN has become a massive welfare state. Tax those who work for a living until they are poor so you can give it away to everyone else. Govt run insurance isn’t affordable healthcare…it’s taxpayer subsidized insurance that does nothing to address the cost of actual care.

    With roughly 4 billion in excess between the rainy day fund and the projected surplus, Walz should have cut spending and taxes instead of increasing both. Another governor that has no economic sense and only wants to tax and spend. 2020 will not bode well for Democrats with stuff like this.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/21/2019 - 09:50 am.

      Ah, yes, the good old conservative tax plan.

      The economy is in the tank? Cut taxes!

      The economy is dong well? Cut taxes!

      When the only tool in your tool box is a hammer….

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/21/2019 - 10:19 am.

      BB, like the last Republican Gov. that left a multi-Bil deficit? That’s really good economics, looks like you don’t believe in paying as you go, better to pass it to the next generation, like the $1.5T federal giveaway to the billionaires, (on the credit card) they really needed that welfare. We do agree about welfare state, but its the well to do that get the majority of the welfare!

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 02/22/2019 - 06:54 am.

      Perhaps conservatives like yourself should discover a means of winning a statewide election if you don’t prefer the course the currently elected administration has taken. It’s been many years since your ideas have been anything but a minority opinion in our state.

  11. Submitted by David Broden on 02/21/2019 - 10:02 am.

    Come on Minnesotans please quite whining and consider a vision for what we want the state to be for us and for the future. Complaining about political parties or analogies to other states makes no sense– lets buitd a vision of MN benefiting all. Let’s identify some innovative and realistic solutions- debate each– find a common approach – approve the plan and move ahead. As listen to the rhetoric each day i really wonder how many citizens know anything about the Madisionian democracy we in the US and in MN have as evolved from the framer of the constitution James Madison- read a bit about the role ant thoughts of Madision and then lets all make the system work. I await your comments without more whining and complaining!!!
    dave broden

    • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/21/2019 - 02:34 pm.

      Ok. Let’s slash the State budget in half or more. Eliminate the State income tax. Reduce state regulations that make it expensive and hard to start a business. Let’s also eliminate light rail, the Met Council and a number govt entities that aren’t needed.

      Let’s go back to a free market capitalism system and watch the MN economy boom. That would give everyone an equal opportunity at success.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/21/2019 - 04:02 pm.

        BB “Let’s go back to a free market capitalism system”
        It was never free, it was only where Corporations could “Socialize costs & privatize profits”
        And perhaps you can provide some credible support for, “watch the MN economy boom” is this like companies working people to death? or, they get injured and are than cast aside as useless, for the governemnt to deal with? You do know that Adam Smith did not support an unbridled so called “Free Market” , the word was called “prudence” “And he stresses that ‘justice’ – not harming others – is fundamental to a healthy human society. Silver bullets, silver bullets, seems a relationship to the Lone Ranger, or a werewolf hunter. If it was only so easy. . .

      • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 02/22/2019 - 08:50 am.

        Half of the state budget is education spending between E-12 and the university system. Which school in your town do you want closed, the elementary school or the high school?

        • Submitted by cory johnson on 02/22/2019 - 10:44 am.

          Another myth. Don’t pretend the education budget is spent wisely. It’s just a bottomless pit that needs more and more “because children”.

          • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/23/2019 - 07:59 pm.

            So its clear, you are an anti education person, so perhaps you can enlighten us on why companies like 3M, Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Target, Best Buy, Wells Fargo, United Health, General Mills, Eco-LAb, Ameriprise etc, etc are congregating around the twin cities/Minnesota? Because they are looking for an uneducated work force?

            • Submitted by cory johnson on 02/24/2019 - 09:29 am.

              Same old liberal “you want to hold education funding to some kind of accountability so you hate education.” Show me a credible study linking funding increasing increases to better outcomes. On the Federal level we’ve doubled spending per pupil and test scores have stayed the same.aShould we quadruple it per pupil and hope it makes horrible parents care about their kids?

              • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/25/2019 - 09:12 am.

                CJ, Please address the question about why business’s are centering in Mpls area MN, It is in the top 10 most desirable, Is this an inconvenient truth for right wingers? If low taxes and low education were the answer, they would all move to Mississippi, they got them both and better weather! ,

                • Submitted by cory johnson on 02/25/2019 - 11:29 am.

                  What does it have to do with our education spending? You ignore the fact the spending doesn’t affect test scores. We have a legacy of companies that were started here decades ago but those days are over. We have a net migration of educated, native born residents. Jacking up our taxes even more will only hasten the process and reduce our revenues even further.

                  • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 02/25/2019 - 12:51 pm.

                    So, can you answer the original question, why companies like 3M, Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Target, Best Buy, Wells Fargo, United Health, General Mills, Eco-LAb, Ameriprise etc, etc are congregating around the twin cities/Minnesota? Is it the weather? It must be the weather.

                    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 02/25/2019 - 06:03 pm.

                      Where else in Minnesota would they be? And the “area” reaches in a circle that pretty much reaches St. Cloud.

                    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 02/27/2019 - 10:06 am.

                      Twin cities/Minnesota was meant to include anything inside, you know, Minnesota. Still, no-one on the “Minnesota is a socialist hellhole” bandwagon seem to want to the answer the question as to why we punch so far above our weight when it comes to having so many fortune 500 companies headquartered here. It’s not because we’re a cold Omaha.

  12. Submitted by Kathleen Castrovinci on 02/21/2019 - 10:07 am.

    While in Australia for a month last Fall, I was impressed with all of the Transportation infrastructure building going on when it came to Public Transportation, highways, building Train stations, expanding train lines, etc. They pay more in taxes overall, but get even more back. Also, Australia has one-tenth the national population of that of the United States, but way ahead when it comes to Transportation Infrastructure, though the country be 2/3 desert.

    Minnesota is lagging behind when it comes to transportation infrastructure. As Minnesota grows in population, our roads, bridges, transit, etc. falls behind. The conditions of the state’s roads needs repair and upgrades. We all use the roads and we all need to take part in their upkeep.

    It has been close to 11 years since the State Gas tax was raised. Tim Pawlenty vetoed 2 Gas Tax increases, and was over ridden on the 3rd attempt, for which Republicans were punished for doing the right thing. Minnesota Republicans are all for things, but shy away when the proposals for paying for them comes to light.

    Tim Wal is to be commended for being frank as to why we need to raise the Gas Tax and where that money will be spent. In the years since the l;ast gas tax increase, costs of materials and labor has gone up, while the quality of our infrastructure has gone down.

    • Submitted by cory johnson on 02/21/2019 - 10:19 am.

      The straw man here is that the only way to pay for infrastructure improvements in MN is through a gas tax. Why? It’s a regressive tax that will disproportionately affect those can least afford it. Are demts saying it’s a sin tax on poor people for whom mass transit isn’t a viable option?

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/21/2019 - 12:28 pm.

        OK, we can leave the gas tax as it is.

        Where will the money come from? What’s the alternative?

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/21/2019 - 04:19 pm.

        CJ And why is it regressive, if you are poor and don’t own a car, you pay $0, is there a suggestion, that getting rid of public transportation, forcing poor folks to buy cars and gas is more equitable? Seems cars are getting to be more and more of a luxury, or don’t wealthy folks drive cars? Interesting rabbit hole.

        • Submitted by cory johnson on 02/21/2019 - 07:29 pm.

          It’s quite obvious. Many, many poor people depend cars as their primary means of transportation. Less than 10% of households in the state don’t have at least one car. They are a cheap, reliable means of transportation for many poor and blue collar households. It’s a liberal myth that poor people don’t have cars.

          • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/23/2019 - 09:24 am.

            Obvious to who? Do you have some support for your comments? Suire does seem strange to see all the folks on buses here in the city? “cheap, reliable means of transportation” Really?

            “AAA’s Your Driving Costs found the average cost to own and operate a new vehicle in 2018 is $8,849 per year. The figure is calculated based on the cost of fuel, maintenance, repairs, insurance, license/registration/taxes, depreciation and loan interest” .

            Lets see even at a $15/Hr job full time ~ $30K a year < S/S and medicare, a car would eat up ~ $30% of income, Before, housing food etc. Me thinks you are the one with the myth, "cheap transportation" Can take the bus for $1.50 a day .

            • Submitted by cory johnson on 02/24/2019 - 03:08 pm.

              Its called the Census Bureau. Pretty easy to find. Also, only a sucker buys a new car so that data is irrelevant.

  13. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/21/2019 - 01:35 pm.

    So what I’m hearing is to not raise the gas tax, and take the money from somewhere else. It’s all so easy, isn’t it?

    Sophistry does fill any potholes, nor does it pour concrete, or purchase $250K road graders.

    • Submitted by cory johnson on 02/21/2019 - 01:57 pm.

      Ever hear of the income tax?

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/21/2019 - 02:24 pm.

        So you are proposing raising income taxes to pay to fix roads and bridges?

        That’s odd. Why would we require people who do not operate motor vehicles to subsidize motor vehicle operators more than we do?

        A five word sentence is not a plan.

        • Submitted by cory johnson on 02/21/2019 - 03:58 pm.

          First of all I completely reject the notion that we need massive tax increases every 2-4 years. Second, my taxes pay for all kinds things I never use. I’m just pointing out the hypocrisy involved in such a regressive tax plan.

    • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 02/21/2019 - 02:39 pm.

      Light rail costs this state millions every year and its only going to get worse as more is added. Sell it all off to private business and then use that money to fix roads. That alone would likely fix every road in MN for many years to come. Esp if we take the billion plus being spent on SWLR.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/21/2019 - 04:13 pm.

        BB, so evidently light rail is not a form of transportation, nor are buses? Perhaps, just perhaps, as with many other items, just a little dot connecting, what if $1 invested in light rail saves $1.5 invested in roads? i.e folks use other forms of transportation relieving the road system, Last heard, it was Tax Dollars that built the interstate system? Bad idea? Or would it be better paying a toll every 5 miles to a private company? Wasen’t it the federal/state governments “free money” in terms of land grants, right away etc. that helped build the original rail system, yep “corporate welfare” so much for that old free market concept!

      • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 02/22/2019 - 08:57 am.

        The transportation budget is $5B annually. Close down the light rail and put the $1B over 20 years toward the roads and there is still a shortfall. Plus we lose the mass transit that is fueling growth in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

  14. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 02/21/2019 - 09:31 pm.

    Tax and spend is what it is all about
    You can have what you want and you will not doubt
    So open your wallets and keep on believing
    and you will find yourself perpetually receiving…….NOT

  15. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/22/2019 - 09:47 am.

    Left unsaid so far is that by leaving the gas tax at 28.5 cents/gallon, we have been cutting that tax every year since it was last raised in 2011. As the costs of labor, equipment, and materials have risen every year, we are getting less bang for the buck. A thousand bucks doesn’t fill as many potholes as it did in 2011.

    The gas tax was 9 cents/gallon in 1975, or 42 cents in 2018 dollars. If your employer hasn’t given you a raise since 2011, and you don’t do anything about it, you’re a chump, because you’re falling behind every year.

    This is basic kitchen table economics.

    • Submitted by cory johnson on 02/22/2019 - 10:40 am.

      How about some of the billions taken for the last income tax increase? Use that money. Oh wait- already poured down into the bottomless pit that is our “budget”.
      And don’t even pretend this has anything to do with kitchen table economics. Unlike the government I actually have to spend less than I take in.

  16. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/22/2019 - 10:21 am.

    Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot when they declare this budget DOA. Obviously there will always be a certain degree of magical thinking regarding economics and revenue (we see it here with comments complaining about tax hikes) but fact that government costs money and things costs what they cost can only be denied for so long. Perpetual budget crises and deficits are not a product of fiscal responsibility, and voters are getting weary of magical thinking that pretend small guvment is fiscal responsibility.

    The rural areas where Republicans are strongest are the very ones Walz is seeking to address with this budget. If Republicans block his efforts to deliver badly needed aid and infrastructure, they’ll be voted out in what? Two years? Then Walz and the Democrats will have at least two years to get the States house in order. The question is will they get it done, or will the back off and leave it all on the table like they did the last time?

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/22/2019 - 10:46 am.

      While I’m bullish on the Dems taking the Senate in 2020, I’m highly skeptical of rural voters rejecting the politics of resentment and division to any significant degree. A few seats in rural areas may be peeled off, but I suspect that it will again be in the ‘burbs where seat will be flipped.

      It will help if Walz is savvy enough to barn storm rural hamlets, either to tout his accomplishments, or show what he could have done for them given a blue senate.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/22/2019 - 03:45 pm.

        Well, they only need pick up 3-4 seats in the Senate, if they start running now and building a platform of action and progress and REAL fiscal responsibility they could pull if off.

        • Submitted by cory johnson on 02/22/2019 - 04:07 pm.

          Fiscal responsibility is not continually increasing spending with no regard to the results. Dems would prefer no accountability for their spending binges.

          • Submitted by Lydia Lucas on 02/23/2019 - 12:26 pm.

            Seems to me Walz has been pretty clear on his desired results, or at least on his goals and on his rationale for them. You may disagree with them, but it’s sophistry to pretend he doesn’t have any.

          • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/23/2019 - 02:15 pm.

            No. You don’t get to play this card any more. That dog won’t hunt.

            The conservative hero Ronnie Reagan blew a hole in the budget so huge he had to raise taxes. (Conservatives never remember that in lionizing their hero, and the he’d never pass the Grover Norquist test today.) The Bush Recession blew a hole in the budget. And now the Don Trump tax scam is doing it again.

            T-Paw left us with a huge deficit. And Sam Brownback blew up the deficit in Kansas, before her left them in the lurch after begging Don Trump for a job. Scott Walker let the point one percent plunder the WI treasury while letting the roads get pock marked by Scott-holes.

            No more do conservatives get to march out this trope about Dems being irresponsible.

            And more of this “Well when they cut taxes they should have cut spending too”. Because that’s exactly what Walker and Brownback did, they slashed spending. And it still didn’t work.

            You cannot show us one example of cutting taxes and spending leading to increased revenues.

            And here is the important thing to remember: the resulting red ink is BY DESIGN. Witness how McConnell passed a tax cut for his corporate overlords and just weeks later he and Ryan are blathering about red ink and the need to cut entitlements, even though they’d told us revenues would surge.

            Brownback’s Kansas experiment was going to prove it all for conservatives. That flim flam artist couildn’t get elected dog catcher in Kansas today. He failed. His ultra right tax plan failed. Case closed.

            • Submitted by cory johnson on 02/24/2019 - 09:41 am.

              New York State revenue is down 2.3 billion. Seems like tax increases don’t work as well as you’d like to believe.

            • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 02/25/2019 - 06:12 pm.

              T-Paw was also the Governor during the “great recession”, since a balanced budget is required by the State, he inherited a condition where tax revenues were far short of spending and thought to cut spending. Even after cutting State spending (which pretty much never happens) the State still came up short. Perhaps he could have raised taxes during the recession to stockpile money. He chose not to.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/25/2019 - 08:59 am.

            The main problem with Republicans who try to talk about fiscal, or any OTHER kind of responsibility is that they have no coherent concepts to work from. In fact magical thinking permeates the Republican mentality to such a degree that their universally incoherent. Whether their talking about “feedom”, or “values” or even religion, they just can’t form a coherent sentence.

            You tell them we want to raise money for roads and they respond: “Well you can’t just keep raising money for the sake of raising money!” And we say again: “We have REASON for raising money, and specific project we want to spend that money on… you know, kind like defense spending” And they respond: “I know, you can’t just keep raising money for sake of raising money”. And so it goes.

            And then it just goes downhill from there to the point where they’re arguing that if we actually cut taxes and raise LESS money the problems will fix themselves, because… that’s how families solve problems right? If your roof is leaking, you quit your high paying job and take a lower paying job so you have less money to spend on fixing your roof, because then the roof will just have to fix itself. That’ll learn it!

            Listen: I used work in psych, with schizophrenics… you can’t argue with delusional people, you just have to limit their access to dangerous power, and you don’t put them in charge of important projects.

        • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 02/22/2019 - 04:58 pm.

          REAL fiscal responsibility is a broad term. Does it include another spending increase of 4-5% per year? Does it include any spending cuts in any sector or just continued increases in all sectors? How are the spending increases paid for, and by which citizens?

  17. Submitted by Gerry Anderson on 02/23/2019 - 09:41 am.

    As a moderate and somebody who understands basic math, it’s not that hard. First, use all of the funds currently available for related items. That would include all sales tax from vehicle sales, car part sales, repairs. Rental taxes and license fees. If that is short, I would definitely support a modest increase in the gas tax.

    The counties that have/use mass transit should pay for it as should people who use it. Add a sales tax to those areas dedicated to mass transit. That way, if I go to an event in MSP, buy some food, stay at at hotel, I help support the system.

    There are millions of taxes and fees currently collected on transportation related items that are not going to transportation. Let’s fix that first.

    • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 02/25/2019 - 10:17 am.

      One thing that has not been mentioned is gas taxes and tolls are the only way to recoup money from people who drive through Minnesota but do not live in Minnesota. Plenty of vehicles (especially trucks) use Minnesota roads but are not registered in the state.

  18. Submitted by Ronald Holch on 02/23/2019 - 03:05 pm.

    Yes, MN has long suffered from poor mass transit. Take any other major metro. Chicago for instance has had a comprehensive mass transit system for over 120 years. It provides dependable transit in the middle of the worst weather. An employed commuter knows that it is dependability that is needed to get to work on time. Buses alone do not provide dependability. Freeways never will. Transit is a necessary part of the commons. Therefore tax dollars from government are necessary in order to provide this essential service. Imagine if we lived in a world where everyone was individually responsible for sewer water or safety protection. How is a transit different?

    Also, you cannot apply business logic to government, They are not the same. The purpose of business is profit. The purpose of government according to Adam Smith is:

    “Smith outlined three important government functions: national defense, administration of justice (law and order), and the provision of certain public goods (e.g., transportation infrastructure and basic and applied education).”

  19. Submitted by Phyllis Kahn on 02/24/2019 - 07:58 am.

    We did once have a law (passed by me) to license bicycles at a reasonable rate. Republicans killed it.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/25/2019 - 09:23 am.

      Ms. Kahn, not every idea you had was great idea.

      City streets that cyclist use are financed by property taxes… that cyclist pay. When I was kid we had to buy licenses for our bicycles here in SLP, I still have one on one of my bikes. I think those programs died because they cost more to administer than they were worth. Now we have online registers where you can record serial numbers.

      It’s also kind of silly to compare bicycles to cars and trucks in terms of road damage. You can ride the bike trails for years and never come across a single pot-hole (I know because I’ve done it) because the physics just aren’t comparable. Even a 300 pound cyclist can’t do as much damage as a 2,000 pound or heavier car.

      I’m not saying we shouldn’t all pay for infrastructure but let’s not be shifting the burden to those who are the least responsible for wear and tear.

  20. Submitted by Ed Newman on 02/24/2019 - 08:16 am.

    Interesting that electric cars, bicycles are mentioned. Points to what appears to be a gas tax as possibly being somewhat short sighted. My humble opinion is that capital budgeting is a 30-100 year process to estimate what all of us need to set-aside annually to deal with infrastructure replacement. This includes towns, cities, counties, states and the federal government. I think we need more professional planning.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/24/2019 - 07:00 pm.

      I agree that it would be good to have a broader discussion about how to fund roads. As vehicles have become more efficient, including hybrids that some times use little gas, and electrics that use none, the gas tax is not as good a proxy as it once was.

      We do have technology that can charge user fees based on vehicle weight, miles traveled, and what time of day (congestion pricing for rush hour). The trouble with this is two fold.

      First, that some people fear the government knowing where and when they travel. I guess their cell phones pinging off of tower after tower and Google collecting more data about them than is imaginable is OK somehow, but whatever.

      Second, conservatives cling to the idea of shrinking government, and oppose any possible new tax, even if it replaces an existing tax. If there the amount of gas sold drops by 75% in ten years, and there is no replacement for that tax revenue, they will be delighted. They won’t tell us this, but this is their dream.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/25/2019 - 09:05 am.

      Yes but we’re still guzzling plenty of gas. For the time being this works.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/25/2019 - 09:37 am.

      As transition away from gasoline powered vehicles and their taxing as a funding source may not be as vexing a problem as some people assume. As long as we don’t let incoherent Republicans make policy based on magical thinking we’ll have plenty of options.

      Even if you NEVER ride on anything ever we all need a decent transportation system and rely on it, so collecting the money to pay for it is not a difficult sell. You can be a dedicated 100% pedestrian but the grocery stores, clothing, hardware, and drug stores you walk to would have have nothing but empty shelves were it not for our roads and streets. The shared financial responsibility isn’t THAT difficult to justify no matter what makes the various engines “go”.

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