It is often said that “the numbers don’t lie.” But numbers can be manipulated extensively to hide a wide variety of ills. No better example of this is my opponent’s taking credit for eliminating the state deficit. Simply put, he worked the numbers so as to be able to crow that under his leadership the state generated a $1.2B surplus. How did he do this? He omitted the $2.4B withheld by the state from the education budget (what our public schools use to keep the doors open and the lights on) and another $700M plus interest owed the tobacco settlement fund.
Frankly, I cannot support, much less reward, “creative” or “phantom” math. It is, at best, disingenuous to represent that the state is operating at a surplus when it is significantly in the hole after all obligations are included. The fact that this so-called surplus doesn’t exist in reality, is made worse by the fact that it is done at the expense of our state’s students.
To be fair, Speaker Zellers was part of a proposal to partially repay the Education debt. However, the bill offered was justifiably vetoed by the Governor because the Zellers' plan would have effectively bankrupted the state. Let me explain.
I think of myself as a small businessman first and a public servant second. In business, I knew that I couldn’t spend every cent I made, much less money I didn’t have. To do so would have been irresponsible. Who doesn’t know that saving for the proverbial “rainy day” just makes good economic sense, regardless of whether you are running your family’s budget, your business’ budget, or your state budget.
So what happens when you do run a zero reserve budget such as the one Speaker Zellers’ repayment proposal contemplated? For an answer you need look no further than to our neighbors in Duluth. With limited post-flood support from the federal government, Duluth will have to receive significant assistance from the state to rebuild. If there are no state reserves to help Duluth it will be bankrupted. I would never do that to my neighbors in Duluth and I expect that same respect from their legislators. It is morally wrong, bad for Duluth, bad for our State, bad for business, bad for homeowners and completely unacceptable.
I am calling out bad business decisions as just that and I stand against that. It is a Minnesota tradition to pay our way. That requires us to stop using Phantom Math and move to long term solutions and not short term gimmicks.