Lawmakers react to new budget

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 25, 2001

While legislative committees in St.

Thursday, January 25, 2001

While legislative committees in St. Paul dissect Gov. Jesse Ventura’s recently unveiled budget, local lawmakers are forming their own cautious opinions on the budget’s impact on taxes, schools and roads in southern Minnesota.

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&uot;I think he’s moving in the right direction with some of the tax cuts,&uot; said Rep. Dan Dorman, R-Albert Lea. &uot;I hate to see people leaving the state because of our high taxes. Maybe these cuts will help the situation.&uot;

Dorman said he wouldn’t be opposed to deeper income tax cuts, and the governor’s proposed property tax cuts might spark more growth in southern Minnesota. But, like many legislators, Dorman is skeptical about the modest increases the budget affords for education and elder care.

&uot;I could see some changes in those two areas in particular, but

personally, I think the governor has given us a pretty good blueprint. This is only the start of the process,&uot; said Dorman.

Sen. Grace Schwab, R-Albert Lea, had similar concerns about education funding, saying the K-12 spending was lower than expected.

&uot;I think, in the end, education will see a larger increase,&uot; said Schwab.

Schwab was encouraged by agricultural property tax exemptions and increases in equalization aid for rural Minnesota. But the possibility of more taxing of non-profits raised concerns for Schwab.

&uot;They are such vital members of our communities, I don’t see why it’s necessary to put more of a burden on them,&uot; Schwab said.

The new budget proposal, said Schwab, has a dangerous reliance on sales taxes. With more and more transactions taking place over the Internet, the sales tax revenue Ventura is looking for may not be realistic.

&uot;Sales tax may not be as reliable a source as the governor hopes,&uot; said Schwab. &uot;

Rep. Henry Kalis, DFL-Walters, said he was perplexed by the budget’s increase in borrowing when the state is enjoying record surpluses.

&uot;It doesn’t seem logical to be acquiring more debt when we have these surpluses,&uot; Kalis said. &uot;I would say that’s my major concern.&uot;

Kalis is also worried about rural Minnesota’s roads if the license tab fees are reduced even further.

&uot;Those road dollars are especially important for rural areas where we have more lane miles and a smaller tax base,&uot; said Kalis.

Like Dorman and Schwab, Kalis predicts more spending for education and nursing homes when a budget is finalized.

&uot;I think the governor left plenty of room for negotiation. He’s in a good bargaining position,&uot; Kalis said. &uot;In general, I have to admire the governor for putting these ideas on the table.&uot;

All three legislators said they intended to continue to study the budget as more and more detail come out in the coming days.