GOP’s reverse-Robin Hood approach

Asking Minnesotans to pay more in tuition and taxes while cutting the corporate income tax is misguided.

Michael Rietmulder

MinnesotaâÄôs great budget battle of 2011 officially kicked off last week when state Republicans proposed $1 billion in cuts largely falling on higher education and local governments.

With a $6.2 billion deficit, sacrifice must be a central theme for organizations receiving state dollars as well as all Minnesotans. But early indications are that the Republican majority is not concerned with ensuring those sacrifices are evenly born.

In round one of the GOP slashing spree, higher education would lose $185 million, local government aid $460 million and $105 million would be cut from the stateâÄôs rentersâÄô rebate program.

On Thursday, University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks made an appearance at the Capitol to give members of the HouseâÄôs Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee an overview of the stateâÄôs only land-grant research university and make his pitch for funding it appropriately.

“I understand the need to balance budgets and to deal with the economic realities that face us,” Bruininks said. “We have to solve our immediate problems but we have to do it wisely, set priorities and take a long-term view. I would argue that the University ought to be in that long-term vision.”

Part of that long-term vision should also be ensuring the affordability of college education. University officials will continue to look for ways to penny-pinch, but undoubtedly the cost of tuition will increase as well.

Local governments, too, will look for ways to cut back, but ultimately these cuts will lead to property tax increases.

Budget cuts are almost always going to be painful, and they are the easiest thing in the world to criticize. And the DFL leadership has readily obliged. House Minority Leader Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said last week that with this proposal, which includes $71 million in cuts to social service grants, Republicans have broken campaign promises that they would protect children, the elderly and people with disabilities.

“TheyâÄôve already broken that promise with this proposal, because these are going to hit exactly those items as well as the property-tax increases that every Minnesotan is going to feel,” Thissen said.

College students and homeowners should understand and accept that they are going to have to pay a little more for the services government provides âÄî or simply do without them.

What is troubling, however, is that while the Republicans are asking middle- and lower-class Minnesotans to pay a little more, they are advocating that corporations should pay a little less.

In a separate bill, the GOP has proposed to cut $200 million from the corporate income tax.

ItâÄôs this reverse-Robin Hood budgeting philosophy âÄî pluck from the poor while lining corporate coffers âÄî that is misguided, rather than the specific targets of these spending reductions.

If tuition costs and property taxes are going to increase, as the Republican-sponsored cuts would cause, now is not the time to cut corporate income taxes without guaranteeing it will spur job growth.

During a press conference announcing the GOP proposal, Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, said she believes most people who will be affected by the cuts to higher education and local government aid will have to expect a reduction in state funding and accepted it as an unfortunate reality.

However, the burden of this deficit should be felt by all âÄî not by some.


Michael Rietmulder welcomes comments at [email protected].