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Eken: GOP budget would eliminate 30,000 jobs - mostly due to cuts to hospitals

St. Paul, Minnesota - The 2011 legislative session ended Monday night without balanced budget, likely forcing a special session. State Rep. Kent Eken (DFL - Twin Valley) said he was disappointed in the outcome and preferred that a compromise was reached. Unfortunately, the majority party did not respond to Governor Dayton's compromise offers and remained firm with their only budget offer. Eken said he supported Dayton's compromise because it was a balanced approach that was better for rural Minnesota.

"Governor Dayton showed a willingness to compromise, but the majority party did not reciprocate," said Eken. "They stuck to their all cuts budget, which pushed large property tax increases onto rural Minnesotans. We need a balanced approach that asks everyone, including those in the wealthiest suburbs to contribute."

Dayton's compromise balances the budget with an equal number of cuts and revenue increases. The revenue in the proposal increases taxes only on the wealthiest 2% of Minnesotans. This is in sharp contrast to the GOP proposal, which relies on deep cuts to property tax relief, colleges and tech schools, and hospitals and nursing homes. Eken said each of these cuts shift a direct cost onto Minnesotans through higher property taxes, college tuition, and health insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles. Eken said the Republican budget hits everyone except for the wealthiest Minnesotans who currently pay the lowest total tax rate.

The GOP all cuts budget also would:

Increase property taxes by $1.3 billion due to local property tax relief cuts, reduce the renters' credit for 300,000 Minnesotans, and eliminate the Market Value Homestead Credit.

Eliminate more than 30,000 jobs - most in the private sector due to over $1 billion in cuts to local hospitals.

Make deepest cut to higher education in state history, resulting in tuition hikes, decreased course offering, and the elimination of hundreds of staff and faculty.

Grow the size K-12 classrooms by cutting K-12 education by $50 million, create winners and losers for our children with disproportionate cuts across the state, and deeply cut special education.

Eliminate health care for 145,000 Minnesotans, reduce services for seniors and the disabled, and significantly cut hospitals which eliminates jobs and increases the cost of insurance premiums.

Cut transit services that many with a fixed income--including seniors, the disabled, and students--rely on to get to work, school, the doctor, grocery stores, and church.

"A balanced approach is better than one where rural Minnesota is disproportionately impacted by cuts," said Eken. "Only the wealthiest 2% would pay a little more in Dayton's plan. In my book, that is much more fair than a plan that increases property taxes, tuition, and health care costs on rural Minnesotans."

With session over, Governor Dayton would likely attempt to meet with legislative leadership to negotiate a deal before June 30th. Eken said he continued to support a compromise budget and looked forward to talking with constituents to get their input.

"I am disappointed the majority party voted down the compromise budget which will lead to a special session, but I remain committed to reaching a solution," said Eken. "I look forward to hearing from folks in rural Minnesota about your ideas on the best way to resolve our deficit."