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Paul Marquart: Fact: GOP forced borrowing from Minnesota schools

DILWORTH, Minn. -- Just over a week ago, Minnesota announced that its schools were repaid an additional $636 million at the end of the 2013 fiscal year. Nearly $2.6 billion of the $2.8 billion owed to our students and their schools has been paid ...

DILWORTH, Minn. -- Just over a week ago, Minnesota announced that its schools were repaid an additional $636 million at the end of the 2013 fiscal year. Nearly $2.6 billion of the $2.8 billion owed to our students and their schools has been paid back -- more than 90 percent.

This is great news. Borrowing from our schools is bad policy, and we need to finish paying them back. But this very positive news was met with a partisan attempt to take credit by Republican Reps. Dan Fabian of Roseau and Deb Kiel of Crookston ("Fact: Republicans paid back Minnesota schools," Page A4, Oct. 5).

I find it interesting that Fabian and Kiel's op-ed came during the federal government shutdown, given that it was their budget decisions in 2011 that forced the longest government shutdown in state history in order to protect the wealthiest Minnesotans from contributing to a budget solution.

Instead, they voted to balance the budget on the backs of schoolchildren and property taxpayers by borrowing more than $2 billion from Minnesota schools and eliminating the Homestead Credit. This irresponsible budget left our students a $2.8 billion IOU and our state with a $627 million budget deficit and $493 million in property tax increases.

During the election, Minnesota voters elected a DFL majority to focus on the important priorities of creating jobs, paying back and investing in our schools and property tax relief. And that's exactly what we did.

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We balanced our state budget deficit this session without the shifts and gimmicks of the past and while providing significant property tax relief. We made our students a priority, putting in law a plan to accelerate school repayment and directing new resources from our growing economy to help settle past bills.

We also invested in our future by fully funding all-day kindergarten, creating early childhood scholarships, increasing needed classroom resources and implementing reforms aimed at building the world's best workforce. (While some Republicans voted yes on our education bill that paid back our students, Kiel and Fabian voted no).

It is important to note that we would not have been able to make progress on paying back our schools if not for additional revenue our state received due to our growing economy. But it is hardworking Minnesotans and our employers who deserve credit for that -- not Kiel and Fabian.

They claim their budget is somehow responsible for Minnesota's growing economy without offering a shred of evidence to support it. I would submit had we passed a responsible budget in 2011 that didn't borrow so much from our children and didn't force hefty property tax hikes on our homeowners, businesses and farmers we would be in an even stronger position today.

Paying back our schools, investing in our children and lowering property taxes is progress and the right priorities for Minnesota. I look forward to building on Minnesota's momentum so that Minnesota's brightest days are ahead of us.

Marquart, a Democrat, represents District 04B in the Minnesota House. He is chairman of the House Education Finance Committee.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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