Key House DFL’er: Legislature is balancing budget honestly
WILLMAR — House Majority Leader Erin Murphy says the Legislature is delivering what Minnesota wants and needs: balancing the budget honestly, investing in educational and bonding priorities and getting the job done on time.
Legislators and their leaders are in recess this week and both Democrats and Republicans are traveling the state to sell their legislative priorities.
The Legislature will complete a budget agreement without a state shutdown, Murphy said Saturday. The House has completed two of its deadlines and they are on track at this point in the session, the St. Paul DFL’er said.
House Democrats unveiled their new budget last week which includes a $700 million increase in education funding, from pre-school through higher education. This includes $100 million targeted for all-day kindergarten implementation.
Minnesota “needs to invest in education, from K-12 through higher education,” Murphy said.
“People like the concept of investing in education and infrastructure,” said Rep. Mary Sawatzky, DFL-Willmar. “Both have needs and are critical in rural as well metro Minnesota.”
Murphy expects there will be a bonding bill in the $800 million range.
“We have tough decisions to make,” Murphy said “Minnesota’s infrastructure is in tough shape and needs repair.”
At the same time, Minnesota has to balance its budget and solve the state budget deficit, currently a $627 million shortfall over the next two years. This is down from the $1.1 billion estimated in late 2012.
“House members have talked with Minnesota about how to balance the budget,” Murphy said. “The House promised to balance the budget honestly” for Minnesotans without one-time funding or funding shifts.
The House’s budget seeks to raise additional revenue, cut some spending and implement a tax surcharge on the top income bracket.
The House is targeting the tax surcharge to paying pay back the $800 million school funding shift, which are delayed payments owed from recent budget years. This surcharge would blink off after two years or before if the debt is paid back sooner, Murphy said.
“We said we would pay back the education shift and we’re surprising people as we are working on doing just that,” Murphy said.