Shar Knutson, St. Paul, column: Legislators failing middle-class Minnesotans
By Shar Knutson ST. PAUL -- The clock is running out on Minnesota's 2011 legislative session. It has become abundantly clear that Republicans in control of the House and Senate are failing middle class Minnesotans. In January, we delivered lawmak...
By Shar Knutson
ST. PAUL -- The clock is running out on Minnesota's 2011 legislative session. It has become abundantly clear that Republicans in control of the House and Senate are failing middle class Minnesotans.
In January, we delivered lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton a simple message. We asked them to help create jobs that can support a family, deliver a balanced budget that protects middle class families and stay focused on these tasks without getting bogged down with other divisive issues.
Dayton is doing what Minnesotans expect our governor to do. He is proposing a jobs bill that will put nearly 30,000 Minnesotans back to work and a budget plan that makes tough cuts while protecting 95 percent of Minnesotans from any tax increases.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Republicans, who control both chambers of the Legislature.
Instead of creating jobs, the Republican budgets will slash 30,000 or more good-paying, mostly private-sector jobs. Putting more people on unemployment would make a bad situation even worse.
Adding insult to injury, legislators are also considering legislation that would significantly lower wages for people who still have jobs.
The Republicans' budget plans are bad news for middle class families. Their budgets do not even balance: According to a nonpartisan Department of Revenue analysis, the Republicans' plan would leave the state $1.2 billion in debt.
The GOP all-cuts plans will cost middle class Minnesotans billions of dollars. Their cuts to property tax relief programs will mean $1.3 billion higher property taxes for seniors, middle-class families and renters around the state. Cuts to higher education will make tuition even more expensive than it already is.
Those fortunate enough to have health insurance will end up having to pay more to make up for a nearly $2 billion cut in the health care budget.
The GOP budget plans ask everyone but the richest Minnesotans to pay for the state's fiscal woes.
The Legislature has not sent a single major budget bill to the governor's desk. Lawmakers are not staying focused their work. They are not negotiating a final compromise with the Governor. They are instead spending what little time they have left proposing divisive amendments to the state's constitution and attacking groups and people who disagree with their agenda.
The Legislature has until May 23 to get its work done. The choices are clear. It's no longer a matter of whether Minnesotans have to sacrifice. It's a matter of who sacrifices.
The Legislature can either choose to continue the policies of the past and put even more burdens on the backs of middle-class Minnesotans or blaze a new path forward with Dayton.
They can work with him to create the jobs we need and to ensure all Minnesotans, including the richest, share in getting our great state back on track. Time is almost up.
Knutson is president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO.