Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Education and Health and Human Services funding levels are unsustainable

Part 1 of a 3-part series

By Brian W. Grogan

Minnesota is faced with the deepest budget deficit in the state's history. Its outcome will impact our state for the next generation. Education and Health & Human Services (HHS) account for over 75 percent of State budget. If we do not adequately address the future obligations of these two entitlement programs today, then by 2025 the continued projected growth of two programs combined will literally bankrupt our state.

The need to communicate honestly to all Minnesotans about the reality of our commitments is urgent and reform is critical. Unfortunately, neither our governor nor the DFL party is aggressively tackling this monumental problem or our ballooning state budget. Did you realize that our state budget is projected to grow by nearly 8% in 2010? Minnesota is facing the largest deficit in its history and our state legislators want to grow government by 7.7%.

What is our history? Minnesota’s State General Fund budget since 1960 has had an average growth rate of 18.6%. That’s 18.6%! Our total state budget in 1960 was $250 million. In 2010 the budget will have grown to over $17 billion. If we look out 15 years and assume an 18% growth, our State’s budget will have grown by 2025 to over $225 billion. If we can somehow slow down State government growth to 7%, our state’s annual budget will grow to nearly $50 billion. Is this sustainable over the long term?

The drivers fueling this dramatic growth are Education and Health and Human Services (HHS). In fact, according to Governor Pawlenty’s Budget Director, Tim Stinson, HHS is projected to grow from 28% today to over 80% of our State’s budget by 2025.

There are concrete steps we can begin to take now to address this unsustainable growth, but our legislators will need to make difficult choices. This is their role and why we have elected them. It is their duty to watch out for all Minnesotans and the future of our state.

Brian Grogan, Minnetonka, was the Republican-endorsed candidate in state House District 43B in 2008.

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