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Viewpoint: Raising taxes is the wrong approach to budget woes

As the Easter holiday approaches, I must say I am disappointed at the lack of progress the Legislature has made toward eliminating our $6.3 billion budget deficit for fiscal year 2010-11. But now that the Minnesota House Democrats have released their budget plans, I'm hopeful this budget reduction process will begin quickly, as we have just over one month remaining before we are required to adjourn.

As part of their plan, House Democrats would raise yet-to-be-determined taxes by $1.5 billion over the next two years. And they plan to increase state government spending by 4.6 percent after inclusion of federal stimulus funds. The House majority's 2010-11 budget would total $36 billion. For comparison, spending for the 2008-09 budget cycle totaled $34.3 billion.

Keep in mind, federal stimulus revenue is one-time funding. Once it's gone, the only way it can be replaced is to use more state funds in the future.

The Department of Finance estimates that inflation is 1 percent. So with these targets, House Democrats are proposing to grow government at nearly five times the rate of inflation in the face of a $6 billion shortfall.

I truly believe this is the wrong budget approach and so do many of you that I have heard from. According to my recent legislative survey, most of the respondents said we should cut spending to solve this budget crisis, and only 3 percent supported raising taxes and fees as the sole source of settling the budget crisis.

We are facing a period of recession and Minnesota's unemployment rate just hit 8.1 percent. One-hundred and twenty-thousand Minnesotans are likely to lose their jobs and thousands more will face pay cuts or be forced to take unpaid leave. Sadly, some of you reading this are already in this category.

Yet the House majority feels now is the time to grow government.

The House leadership is showing its lack of ability to reform government or control spending. We need to recognize people are struggling, and that our residents need better job opportunities and need to keep more of the money they earn. Raising taxes and increasing spending will only put our neighbors in greater financial trouble.

Rep. Denny McNamara represents District 57B in the Minnesota House.