Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Why are DFL leaders crying foul on HHS cuts?

Part 2 of a 3-part series

By Brian W. Grogan

Since 1960, Minnesota’s state budget (general fund) has grown by over 18% annually. The media, liberal commentators and DFL legislators are trying to tell Minnesota taxpayers that our $4.6 billion deficit is due to the economy, but this is only part of the story. The unsustainable growth of government spending is the real cause for the deficits we are facing. What is the response of the DFL Minnesota House and Senate leaders to this enormous deficit? For the last four months they have been trying to sell Minnesotans on our "shared responsibility," which means an increase in taxes. Let's understand their proposals.

The DFL-controlled Senate proposal raised taxes by $2.3 billion and cut spending by $2.3 billion, but the proposed spending cuts are based on a budget that is increasing by 4.8%. In other words, the DFL leaders in the Senate don't want to actually cut government spending but essentially hold the line at 0% budget growth while increasing our taxes.

The DFL-controlled House wants to raise taxes by $1 billion while cutting expenses by $3.6 billion, which is better than the Senate's approach but it still only cuts overall spending by 5% while raising our taxes. We are in a 12% deficit hole and half of the DFL leaders don't want to cut spending while the other half only want to cut spending by 5%. Gov. Pawlenty wants 12% in spending cuts to address the 12% deficit. Which approach between the three is the most fiscally responsible especially in light of the fact that MN government spending has grown by over 18% annually since 1960?

Do you know any fiscally-responsible person or family that would maintain or only slightly decrease their spending at a time when they have a 12% drop in income and have insufficient funds to pay future obligations? Most financially-responsible families and individuals would be analyzing the books to find out-of-control spending problems and where to make cuts.

There is a reason why Gov. Pawlenty is predominately cutting the Health and Human Services (HHS) budget. It is the most out-of-control piece of the budget and Minnesotans should be greatly concerned that the DFL party refuses to accept the fact that HHS growth is unsustainable. In fact, the only way we can support the DFL’s vision for HHS obligations would to raise personal income taxes to 20% or more.

Unfortunately, our media outlets and liberal commentators are not talking about the reality of the HHS problem. Under current eligibility standards and growth projections, the HHS obligation will grow to over $40 billion by 2025 which would represent 80 percent of the budget. How will our State be able to fund K-12 education in addition to our state college system, city government, law enforcement and prison system if our HHS obligation represents 80% of the budget?

The DFL majorities are screaming how Gov. Pawlenty is reducing benefits to the indigent and uninsurable. This is simply not true.

The 2010-11 budget had HHS growing by 26% ($2.4 billion increase) from its 2008-09 biennium budget. Gov. Pawlenty proposed a $1.7 billion cut from the $11.4 billion HHS 2010 budget which represents a 10% cut. But even after Pawlenty’s proposed cuts, the HHS budget grows by 10% over the 2008-09 biennium budget.

The DFL counterproposal is to cut $500 million in the 2010-11 biennium but then reinstate the cuts in 2012. The DFL is still committed to growing HHS's obligations at an unsustainable pace. Thankfully, Gov. Pawlenty is committed to slowing HHS's growth.

Unfortunately, our media sources are refusing to challenge DFL party leaders during these tough economic times. As a state, we need an honest debate on what we can and cannot provide to Minnesota's indigent population and uninsured residents. I feel strongly that tough decisions need to be made by our political leaders in order to serve our state's long-term interest.

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

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