Letter: House proposals a result of difficult choicesWith the Minnesota House having completed its task of balancing the budget, I want to explain to residents how lawmakers made it happen.
By: Dist. 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, Worthington Daily Globe
With the Minnesota House having completed its task of balancing the budget, I want to explain to residents how lawmakers made it happen.
The House passed a series of comprehensive funding proposals for all areas of state government. Within each of these bills, we had to prioritize, and in many cases, reduce spending.
The Higher Education Finance Bill made students the priority by fully funding programs that help them pay for college — the state grant program — and making no reductions to the work study program. Doing this meant budgets had to be reduced for the University of Minnesota and MnSCU, and in this case that meant 14.1 percent or $411.063 million.
The House GOP’s K-12 Education bill proposes many reforms, including ending the integration aid, sunsetting ineffective compensatory programs, enhanced accountability measures and school grading and mandate relief. Along with per-pupil funding increases of $86 in years 2012-13 and $40 in 2014, schools with less than 1,000 students also would see additional funding if the legislation became law.
In Transportation, the goal was to preserve current road systems and curb the light rail expansion projects that Minnesota is struggling to pay for through building and continued operation costs.
Some good news for rural Minnesota — $120 million more would be spent on state highways, an additional $126 million would be spent on local road investments and $1 million more would be allocated to Greater Minnesota transit.
The Environment bill sets priorities for accountable and responsible spending that provides long-term benefits for our environment and economy. The legislation prioritizes funding to focus on core functions to achieve clean air, water and land directs funding for emerging critical issues including aquatic invasive species and chronic wasting disease. The total budget reduction was $65 million.
The goals of the Health and Human Services legislation are to protect priorities, promote reform and put our system on a sustainable path.
There is no question this bill cuts projected HHS spending by almost $2 billion, but keep in mind our deficit is based on projected spending. In actual dollars, HHS spending would increase from the previous budget cycle by $520 million. The bill also spares nursing homes from across-the-board rate cuts and freezes rates at existing levels while providing increased regulatory flexibility.
The HHS legislation also includes a bill I carried that will increase funding to nursing homes receiving the lowest rates by reallocating funding from nursing homes receiving the greatest amount of funding. Most of the nursing homes that would benefit from this provision are located in rural Minnesota.
The State Government bill also focuses on reforms that would make state government much more efficient. In addition, it does not reduce state employee salaries or increase employee contributions to their pensions, nor does it eliminate collective bargaining. It does, however, cut state government’s budget by 33 percent, down to almost $602 million.
No one said eliminating a projected deficit would be easy. We made tough, painful choices to make this budget balance, just as many families and business owners have been doing for the past few years.