Dan Fabian and Deb Kiel: Fact: Minnesota Republicans paid back the schoolsIn our neck of the woods, we value honesty. We tell it straight and give credit where credit is due. So, when Gov. Mark Dayton and Democratic leaders recently declared their one-party control led to the state making good on $2.5 billion in delayed K-12 school payments, we stopped dead in our tracks, totally astonished.
By: Dan Fabian and Deb Kiel, Grand Forks Herald
ST. PAUL — In our neck of the woods, we value honesty. We tell it straight and give credit where credit is due.
So, when Gov. Mark Dayton and Democratic leaders recently declared their one-party control led to the state making good on $2.5 billion in delayed K-12 school payments, we stopped dead in our tracks, totally astonished.
Now, people who know us gather we are reasonable people. We don’t like to get into partisan politics, but in this instance, we felt the need to set the record straight to what we view as one of the more egregious examples of political misrepresentation.
Let’s take a look at a timeline to make clear that it is simply impossible for DFL leaders to take credit for paying back K-12 schools, other than using the surpluses generated under the bipartisan, commonsense budget passed in 2011.
When we first stepped into office two years ago, the state had a new Legislature led by Republicans paired with newly-elected DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
And, boy, did we have a budget to balance!
From the previous Legislature, we inherited a $5 billion deficit, including a $2 billion school shift. A “shift” simply means that payments to K-12 schools are delayed to a later date in order to provide a one-time savings to the state without actually reducing education appropriations.
As we wrestled to balance a historic deficit and out-of-control spending, we and our legislative colleagues called for holding the line on taxes and controlling state spending; on the other hand, Dayton called for large tax increases to fix the deficit.
During compromise negotiations, Dayton was first to float the idea of delaying school payments to an even later date. Ultimately, as part of the 2011 budget agreement with the governor, the amount owed in deferred payments to schools grew to $2.7 billion.
Dayton wasn’t particularly happy about the compromise, saying he had “serious reservations” because the budget was “something I do not agree with.”
Fast forward one year.
Hardworking Minnesotans responded well to the budget that didn’t tax them, and revenues coming in to the state were consistently higher than expected. Record numbers of businesses popped up, and the unemployment rate continued to drop.
In April 2012, Dayton vetoed the Legislature’s move to pay back more than $2 billion in delayed K-12 payments. With this veto, Dayton said, “This is what I think is right for Minnesota.”
During the election cycle in 2012, Democrats and their allies ran a scathing campaign, saying some of our best legislators voted to take billions from local schools. This campaign was successful, and Minnesotans chose a government under total control of the DFL.
Turns out, when they assumed the majority in 2013, Democrats abandoned their promise to repay the school shift and actually increased it by an additional $73 million, to an outstanding balance of $874 million as of July 2013.
The bipartisan budget passed in 2011 ended on July 1, 2013, replaced by the all-DFL budget this spring that grew spending by 10 percent and hiked up taxes by $3 billion on hardworking Minnesotans.
By this point, the 2011 fiscally responsible budget had produced nearly $3.4 billion in cumulative budget surpluses. Of this, about $2.5 billion has been applied to the school shift, leaving only about $238 million from the 2010 DFL-led Legislature.
During the 2013 session, our DFL colleagues enacted a special provision that allowed them to use the remaining budget surplus of $636 million and put it toward the remaining school shift.
Now, Gov. Dayton and legislative leaders who decried the 2011 budget are taking credit for its benefits. We have to admit, it’s a shrewd move and politically savvy. But it’s not honest.
In the Minnesota House, Fabian, R-Roseau, represents Kittson, Roseau, Marshall and Pennington counties and Kiel, R-Crookston, represents Pennington, Red Lake and Polk counties.