As our elected officials continue a long legislative session, Gov. Mark Dayton recently made some significant budgetary announcements. On Tuesday, the governor released his $842 million bonding proposal package, funding various projects across the state. On Thursday, Dayton laid out his budget plan during the annual State of the State address, highlighting ways to spend much of the $2 billion surplus.
Republican legislators have staunchly criticized DFL proposals to make needed investments across the state. While conservatives’ rhetoric may sound compelling, their arguments fall flat in the face of reality.
For example, Republicans argue that we should not focus on developing a bonding bill because it isn’t a “bonding year.” Historically, budget bills are passed in odd-numbered years, while bonding legislation is debated during even-numbered years, but there are several problems with this framework. Not only has this rule rarely been followed — we have had a bonding bill 31 out of the last 32 years — but it is simply arbitrary. We should make investments every year to ensure that economic recovery continues to thrive.
Republicans have also criticized the DFL bonding proposals for being too large. The general perception is that bonding bills should never exceed $1 billion. Just like with the issues concerning bonding years, though, this rule is arbitrary and obstructs public policy priorities.
Perhaps the biggest complaint that I have heard from Republicans involves the supposed “wasteful spending” that Democrats perpetuate at the expense of taxpayers.
First and foremost, I find these claims by Republicans ironic. Under DFL leadership, we have seen a steadfast economic recovery, a properly managed budget and high rankings on many socioeconomic indicators. At this point, it seems crystal clear that both Dayton and Democratic legislators have far more legitimacy and authority on economic affairs than their Republican counterparts, especially when we compare the results of conservative leadership in Wisconsin to the progress made by liberal politicians here in Minnesota.
Second, while cutting taxes — the Republican alternative to the DFL proposal — sounds appealing, it doesn’t generate nearly as much of an economic impact as making substantial public investments. Indeed, large infrastructural and educational investments do more for the economy than slight reductions in taxes.
Ultimately, given the DFL track record of effective governance, which has translated into a strong and robust economy, we should support Dayton’s recent budget and bonding proposals.