"Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be President, but they don't want them to become politicians in the process." -- John F. Kennedy
I have stated many times that I have no interest in being a career politician. However, when you begin to pay attention to what our state and federal governments are doing, it becomes a great motivator to become politically active.
We have witnessed quite a re-awakening of public scrutiny of the proper role of government in recent years and that is very healthy. Our federal government has extended its reach so much, both at home and abroad, that they have accumulated over $16 trillion in debt. That equals about $141,000 per taxpayer!
Have we done better at the state level? By law Minnesota must balance its budget or it shuts down. We witnessed that 20 Day fiasco in the summer of 2011. Let’s take a look at how the $35 Billion Minnesota State Budget breaks down:
- 33% Health Care
- 19% Education
- 19% Welfare
- 12% Government Pensions
- 6% Transportation
- 4% Protection
The balance is allocated to general government spending and debt service.
We will take a more detailed look at some of this spending later, but one thing I want to focus on is the area we don’t talk about much—Minnesota debt. You would think that a budget this large would include all spending projects, but it doesn’t.
That 6% allocated to transportation doesn’t pay for many roads and bridges. The state passes bonding bills to pay for that. These projects are put on the state 'credit card.' This is quite dangerous for many reasons.
In 2012, construction had yet to start on many of the projects included in 2011’s $531 million bonding bill, but that didn’t stop Joe Atkins from voting to pass a second bonding bill for the biennium adding another $566 million of debt to the taxpayer credit card (HF1752).
Minnesota has a total state debt of approximately $69,199,871,000, when calculated by adding the total of outstanding official debt, public employee pension and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) liabilities, Unemployment Trust Fund loans, and the FY2013 state budget gap.
That equals over $12,900 for each man, woman, and child in Minnesota.
Not only do we have all of this debt to pay back, but there is an expense to financing this debt. We will spend $454 Million in debt service in FY2012-13. As any credit card holder knows, it costs money to borrow money.
The worse your credit rating is, the more expensive it is for you to borrow money and to continue to increase your credit limit.
Moody's Investor Service downgraded its outlook on Minnesota from stable to negative in light of the budget's reliance on one-time funds. Moody's said that Minnesota faces "significant obstacles" in achieving a structurally balanced budget in the next cycle as a result of those actions.
Both Moody’s and Fitch Ratings lowered the state's credit ranking in July 2011. What do these credit rating agencies tell us?
We need to get runaway government spending under control and stop running up bills on the state credit card.
The year prior to Joe Atkins taking office, Minnesota held about $5.4 billion in state debt. This has now more than doubled to $12.6 billion. This is a sobering number. When Joe advanced his career to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2002, the state had a $18.4 billion budget—since he’s been in office our spending has nearly doubled.
During that decade, Minnesota’s population increased by only 325,000. During this time, Mr. Atkins has served on the powerful Commerce Committee.
This spending and debt explosion not only happened on his watch, but in front of the very committee he has chaired.
It is time that someone stood up to out of control government spending. It’s time to ‘just say no’ to career politicians who can’t seem to say ‘no’ to runaway spending.
As your representative I will be the one to stand up to the fiscal insanity and make government learn the lesson that it must live within its means, just as every family in Inver Grove Heights has to do during tough economic times.
When we live free, we live better. We need freedom from runaway government spending and doubling down on State debt.