By Roman Witucki, Guest Columnist
After a decade of Republicans, like our local legislators, saying “no” to Minnesotans, leaders of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party have us moving in the right direction.
When the Republicans were in control of state government, instead of raising the revenue necessary to keep the shine on Minnesota’s Star of the North status, they stuck to their “no new tax pledge.” This decision cost Minnesotans more in the long run.
When schools needed funding to meet the challenges of preparing students to compete in a global economy, the Republicans held education funding hostage as part of the historic 2011 state-government shutdown and “borrowed” $2.8 billion from schools to “balance” the state budget.
When college tuition soared and students needed relief, Republicans said, “no.” Minnesota found itself ranked fifth highest in the nation in the proportion of students taking on debt (71 percent) and third highest in debt level ($29,793).
When local units of government needed increased state aid, Republicans said, “no.” Since 2002 on average after refunds, property taxes increased $332 million.
When the DFL took control of the Legislature in 2012, the lawmakers agreed with Gov. Mark Dayton that it was time to say “yes” to Minnesotans and build a better Minnesota.
To make an historic investment in education the DFL increased income taxes on taxpayers with an average salary of $617,000 a year, the majority who live in the Twin Cities. Our local legislators, Rep. Ron Kresha and Sen. Paul Gazelka, voted “no” on this proposal.
Minnesota will benefit for years to come from the investment in our future workforce. In addition to all-day kindergarten and a two-year tuition freeze at the University of Minnesota and state colleges and universities, the DFL made the first major investment in early childhood education. Kresha and Gazelka voted “no” to preparing a well-educated workforce.
During the 2013 Legislative Session, DFL lawmakers increased aid to local units of government to help hold down property tax increases. It is projected that under DFL leadership, property taxes will decrease for the first time in 12 years. Kresha and Gazelka voted “no” to providing property tax relief for working families.
With Kresha and Gazelka voting no to initiatives that help residents of Morrison County, who are they voting for? Late last year, Rep. Kresha announced his support to increase funding for long-term care workers, which is needed, but he didn’t say how he would pay for it. If history tells us anything, when it comes time to pay for this proposal, Rep. Kresha will vote “no.”
Because of the DFL, Minnesota has a $1.2 billion budget surplus (Gov. Dayton has proposed $616 million in tax relief targeted to middle-class Minnesotans and businesses, including repealing a tax on farm equipment repairs), more jobs than when the Governor took office and investments that will pay off for years to come. That’s thanks to DFL leaders who were willing to say “yes,” to building a better Minnesota.
Roman Witucki of Little Falls is the chairman of the Morrison County DFL.