Priorities are key to fiscal choices

Published 10:21 pm Thursday, July 3, 2014

A recent column writer claims that he will cast his votes for governor, congressman, senator and state legislator this year and he is going to focus on one issue: infrastructure. I think that letter writer should instead change the word infrastructure to “priorities.”

A piece I read last year on American Enterprise Institute Policy Blog was titled, “Actually, America doesn’t have a trillion-dollar infrastructure crisis.” It, too, looked at the misconceptions of spending and priorities.

There are many other factual pieces on education, roads, economy and government spending in general. Is it a fact that government spends too little, doesn’t tax enough, or has misplaced priorities? I would argue, unlike the column writer, that most of our problems with government spending is that we have our priorities misplaced.

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For example, we hear how the highways trust fund is coming close to insolvency and the claim we must find other revenue for this fund. But when you start looking at what this fund pays for you get a much different picture. Instead of spending this money on roads and road infrastructure billions of dollars are diverted to spending on transit, graffiti removal, ferry boats, bicycle paths, nature trails. So the question we must ask is: Should we refocus our priorities so that funding dedicated for roads and bridges actually is spent on roads and bridges? I believe the answer is 100 percent unequivocally — yes!

Next example is the lack of priorities of our state Legislature and governor. Over $1 billion was paid out for capital investment this year — but very little of that money was focused on roads and bridges. We also have dedicated funding via a constitutional amendment and gas taxes that are paid by those buying and using trucks and cars in Minnesota but a growing percentage of that is diverted to trains and transit. Plus we have a $90 million Senate office building and countless other questionable spending projects. Again — if roads and bridges are a priority why are they not funded like a priority?

You cannot call something a priority, spend all the money the taxpayers give you, then claim you do not have enough for actual priorities. We don’t need increases in gas taxes, increases in other taxes and billions more in spending — we need to elect those who do what you and I do every month at our kitchen table — budget and spend based on priorities — not put us deeper into debt, use taxpayers as an ATM, or keep spending on things that are not priorities.

I can assure you that the current Democrats in Washington and the DFL Party in St. Paul have no clue about priorities other than to ask you for more of your hard-earned tax dollars so they don’t have to do what we elect them to do — set priorities.


David Anderson