Before we get started, let’s always ask one question when considering any Republican for higher office in Minnesota: Why? The turn from Republican to Democratic leadership has been a fantastic change for Minnesota. A budget surplus in place of systematic deficits, health care for more Minnesotans, equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, a decrease in unemployment, and a more robust economy. So…?
Back to Kurt.
On his website, Kurt Zellers claims responsibility for today’s state fiscal soundness. This is a stretch. While Kurt Zellers was speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives, he claims he led the effort the balance the budget without raising taxes. Let’s look at how that was done.
First, unlike the federal government, Minnesota essentially needs a balanced budget. The money comes from cuts, taxes, or borrowing. Zellers advocated cuts and especially borrowing.
The state cut local government aid to municipalities to save some money. Much of those cuts were made up with increases in local sales taxes, essentially transferring the taxation from the state to the local level. This also had the effect of disproportionately harming local entities with weaker tax bases. Generally, poorer and more rural municipalities were hurt, wealthier and more suburban areas less hurt. Republicans — who claim to represent all Minnesotans — appear to be ok with that shell game.
But a more nefarious gag was played on Minnesota under Zeller’s watch. After the state set biennium education funding — aid to schools — it postponed payment of that aid. In essence it borrowed the money from the schools to “balance” the state’s books.
This only postponed the inevitable shortfall in state finances and in fact made it worse for the next round of funding. Not only did the state need to consider future aid, it had the previous promise to schools to pay off. Of course this might not be a problem if you are a Republican and don’t want to fund wasteful programs like education. You just cut more. (This is the systematic mismanagement of government resources that gives Republicans the leverage they seek to defund the public programs they resent. It doesn’t happen by accident.)
Any way you look at it, Zellers is not a good choice for Minnesota. First of all, we don’t need people like him in public office; we’re better off without them. Secondly, his brag sheet is tarnished by poor policy and management. It was not until Democrats got control of Minnesota’s finances that the proper steps were taken to truly balance the state’s books. Now, ignoring that fact, Republicans are asking us to support a return to failure. Why would anyone support that?