Friday, January 21, 2011

Minnesota Republicans Propose Cutting LGA and Higher Education

Contributed by Danny S. 
Minnesota’s Republican legislators have proposed cutting about $200 million from state funding for Minnesota colleges and universities.  The budget proposals of the state GOP include plans to lop off $460 million in aid to local governments across the state, possibly resulting in higher property taxes for homeowners if the local governments decide this is necessary. 

Please see: 

Proposed cuts to funding for higher education will be framed as necessary to fix the state’s budget deficits.  Before accepting this premise, questions about Republican budget proposals should be asked by the public and other lawmakers who have not signed on.  For instance, will proposed cuts to higher education affect the future economic growth and competitiveness of Minnesota?  Additionally, if enacted, will the proposed cuts lead to higher tuition rates for Minnesota’s families and students?  Moreover, will the quality of education and programs at Minnesota’s institutions of higher learning suffer? 

Republicans have argued that they can balance the state budget by only making cuts. 

Again, please see: 

It appears, however, that the current plans of the new Republican leadership fall quite a bit short of cutting the amount necessary to balance the budget.  Even with their proposed $1 billion in budget cuts, the Republicans would need to find ways to cut a further $5.1 billion from the budget (if Governor Dayton agrees to the $1 billion in cuts). 

Even if we—as residents of Minnesota—accept the conclusion that these short-term cuts are required for reducing the state budget deficit, we should examine whether these cuts would undermine the role of higher education in Minnesota.  Would these budget cuts harm the quality or level of instruction at colleges and universities?  Would cuts to higher education funding affect access to higher education for Minnesota’s middle-class and working-class students?  And if these cuts to higher education funding would lead to higher tuition rates and fewer students who enroll in colleges and universities, how would having a less educated workforce and population affect Minnesota’s future economic growth and development?  Would less economic growth, in the future, affect incoming revenues collected through taxes, thereby creating a need for further tax increases and cuts? 

Unfortunately, the MN GOP’s reluctance to consider other ways of balancing the budget may lead to a situation in which the State of Minnesota is harmed both economically and socially.  Indeed a less well-educated workforce may mean that fewer individuals have the resources, knowledge, and connections to start new companies, and this, in turn, would mean that fewer Minnesotans could find well-paying jobs.  New, or start-up, businesses do most of the hiring in the United States, not established corporations—which, actually, have trimmed corporate payrolls considerably in recent years.  The MN GOP may be taking the residents of MN down a road of less prosperity and opportunity.  The economic growth and the social accord that exist when people have opportunities to gain an education or to be employed may be disrupted by a more dismal future brought about by the ill-advised and ill-timed policies of the MN GOP. 

Given former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s decision to veto DFL budget proposals over a period of 8 years, leading in part to a massive budget deficit in MN, one would think that Minnesota’s new Republican leadership in the legislature would want to balance the budget carefully.  That appears to be wishful thinking today.  In the coming weeks and months, Governor Dayton and the newly-elected Republican leadership in the state legislature will wrangle over the particulars of the budget.  It will be unfortunate for the State of Minnesota if budgetary discussions and solutions consist of cutting the funding for higher education.    

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