Guest Editorial: A whole lot of spin over budget forecast
Oh, the spin.
Within minutes after the Minnesota Office of Management and Budget released the state’s February budget forecast Thursday, the e-mails and accusations were flying.
The forecast showed the state’s projected deficit for 2014-2015 isn’t quite as bad as initially projected. Instead of $1.1 billion, it dropped to $627 million. It also showed a surplus this year of $295 million.
Depending on which political view you take, those numbers can be contorted into anything you want them to be. Naturally, how Republicans and DFLers reacted was as predictable as a “hot and dry” weather forecast for Death Valley. The gargantuan gap between the two political parties’ take on the forecast is so extreme, however, that it’s no wonder the Legislature can’t seem to get much accomplished these days.
Here’s how Republican House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt reacted: “Today’s forecast shows that by not raising taxes on hard working Minnesotans, we [Republicans] brought in more revenue. If Governor Dayton and DFL legislators are looking for a reason to raise taxes, they won’t find one in this budget forecast.”
Daudt couldn’t help but add: “Two years ago, Governor Mark Dayton insisted that Minnesota’s economy would be damaged without massive tax increases. Republicans held firm and balanced the budget by setting priorities and holding back the growth of government. Two years later our economy is improving, tax revenues are increasing, and the state is in better shape.”
Assistant Senate Republican Leader Dave Thompson added his ominous two-cents to the “news” release: “But now Governor Dayton and DFL legislators want to raise taxes on every Minnesotan. This will hurt families, slow our economy, and return us to a cycle of low growth and big deficits.”
Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Pat Shortridge and Deputy Chairwoman Kelly Fenton quickly credited Republican leadership for achieving an economic turnaround. “Republican majorities from 2011-2012 gave Dayton and the DFL majorities an incredible gift,” they said in a joint statement. “Now the question remains: Will Governor Dayton and the DFL Legislature ram through their $3.7 billion tax hike in order to spend more for their pet projects? That stale approach won’t make a better Minnesota, it will just give us a bigger government where politicians and special interests come first.”
Now cut to DFL leaders. Here’s how DFL Chair Ken Martin took the budget news: “The positive February forecast shows that Minnesota’s economy continues to move in the right direction,” he beamed. “The additional $295 million goes toward the $1.1 billion still owed to schools under the Republicans’ attempts to balance the state budget on the backs of school children.”
Martin added that “while Republicans hold fast to shifts and gimmicks of failed budgets of the past, the DFL will make the tough decisions needed for long-term prosperity.”
Governor Dayton heralded the forecast as very good news for Minnesota and a sure sign of progress. “By comparison, the $627 million deficit now projected for the next biennium is about one-tenth of the $6.1 billion deficit projected for the next biennium, when I took office in January 2011,” he said.
After the forecast fallout, it’s easy to see why so many everyday citizens are fed up with politics. Lawmakers spend so much time taking credit for success and blaming the other party for failure, it dims their chances to work together, compromise and come up with sensible, long-term solutions. They’d rather just spin. — Alexandria Echo Press