The Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature have a difficult task this year. Outnumbered in both houses, and with a DFLer in the governor's office, they have to try to make themselves heard, and get their message through to their colleagues on the DFL side.
Their message should be fiscal restraint. They should be pointing out that in this budget year, with the state facing a $1.1 billion budget deficit, the state is actually expecting a revenue increase of about 2.4 percent without any tax increases. That's a total of $35.8 billion. The problem is, state spending, if there are no changes in current programs, is expected to rise 4.7 percent, to 36.9 billion.
The DFL is expected to approach the deficit from the revenue side, to look for ways to increase the state's revenue. Gov. Mark Dayton, who will unveil his budget proposal on Jan. 22, is expected to propose tax reform, to simplify the state's tax system (which is admittedly convoluted and too reliant on property taxes) and make it fairer - that is, see that the wealthy pay more.
It will be the Republicans' job to focus attention on the spending side of the equation. Gov. Dayton is expected to include some program cuts in his budget proposal as well as tax reform.
It would be wonderful if the state could live within its means, to hold spending increases to the level of the revenue increases. We doubt that will happen, however, unless the Republicans, in their minority position, are able to be persuasive proponents of spending cuts.