Torrey Westrom column: Budget shortfall a clear call for common senseWe recently learned the November state budget forecast calls for a $6.2 billion shortfall in 2012-13 – a clear call that like families, small businesses and local government, state government will also have to reduce and reform spending to balance its budget.
By: State Rep. Torrey Westrom, Alexandria Echo Press
We recently learned the November state budget forecast calls for a $6.2
billion shortfall in 2012-13 – a clear call that like families, small
businesses and local government, state government will also have to
reduce and reform spending to balance its budget.
An important footnote to recognize is that Minnesota’s revenue is
expected to actually rise by nearly 5 percent in the next biennium, but
a 28-percent spike in spending is projected, far outweighing the added
revenue and putting a hole in our budget. The good news is there is a
long list of common-sense solutions to help government live within its
means that’s been offered in recent years.
Many of those worthy ideas – previously buried in committees – will
receive their due consideration when the new majority takes place in
Here are just a handful of the proposals: reforming welfare to save
taxpayers money and reduce fraud, limiting state government spending to
only available revenues, privatizing the prison system, selling excess
state lands, and reforming MinnesotaCare to save money and provide
recipients with more choice and better health care quality.
These measures would help our state live within its means just like
small businesses and families throughout Minnesota have done during the
recession. Not all of them will prove to be practical, but it is obvious
our budget course is unsustainable and the “easy fixes” like
one-time reductions, delayed payments and federal stimulus money already
have been mostly tapped. What’s worse is these options not only are
used up, but they put us in a bind because our state is committed to
spending more than we can afford.
Here are the major factors contributing to our $8.3 billion in spending
growth for the next biennium, courtesy Minnesota Management & Budget:
Replacing federal stimulus money: $2.3 billion
K-12 funding: $1.9 billion
School shift buyback: $1.4 billion
One-time reductions: $660 million
Government program growth (HHS, etc): $2 billion
This budget pinch presents us with a chance to re-think the way our
state conducts business. The 2011 legislative session begins Jan. 4 so
we can begin the process of achieving fiscal responsibility and a strong
private-sector workforce, the two keys to regaining prosperity. We will
face many difficult decisions along the way, but I am confident we will
display the long-term vision and strong leadership necessary to turn
around our economy, state tax revenues and work together with Gov.-elect
Dayton to help minimize our continual budget deficits.
I welcome your continued correspondence as we prepare for the 2011
session; all ideas to reduce spending are needed and welcomed. Your
ideas help me to do my best job possible in representing this area in
the Legislature. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rep. Westrom can be reached at the Capitol by calling 651-296-4929 or
800-711-2620, and by email at email@example.com. His office
is located at 273 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.