We’re relieved to see that Minnesota is showing signs of economic recovery, and it’s good to know that we don’t face another major deficit this year. But we need to be very cautious about calling this a “surplus.”
Today’s forecast shows that Minnesota will have enough revenue to backfill the budget reserves (“rainy day funds’) that were emptied last session. That’s welcome news. But we need to remember that this forecast will be updated in February, and there is still a very real chance some or all of this additional revenue could disappear in just a few months.
This forecast makes perfectly clear that this legislature has not solved our budget deficit. They’ve simply “kicked the can down the road” until after the next election.
Rather than working with Governor Dayton on a responsible budget solution, the Republican majorities borrowed billions from our schools and spent money the state didn’t have in order to avoid making the tough decisions. The result: a $3.4 billion budget deficit looming just a year away.
This reckless borrowing scheme has already cost our state dearly. Just yesterday, we learned Minnesota schools had to borrow nearly $400 million just to make up for the money the state took from them last year. Last week, we learned the state is going to have to pay almost $600 million in interest to pay for the Republican’s tobacco appropriation bonds.
If a corporation had $876 million in the bank but owed $3 billion in outstanding debt, they wouldn’t claim they had a surplus.
Calling this a surplus is like calling yourself rich when you have $100 in your wallet but just maxed out your credit cards to pay your mortgage and buy groceries.
So now the question is: will the Republican majorities choose to leave behind a $3 billion budget deficit, or will they get to work on fixing the problem and upholding their promise of “fiscal responsibility”?