Here's what Republican state legislators Steve Drazkowski and Jeremy Miller aren't telling you about Minnesota's so-called "surplus":
First, it's not a surplus at all; calling it a surplus is "a lie." So says David Schultz, a Hamline University professor, expert on government, author or editor of more than 25 books, and regular source in prestigious national news outlets.
"Minnesota really does not have a surplus," Schultz wrote recently. Statistics claiming a surplus "mask a reality that shows how numbers do not always tell the truth," Schultz stated. This "surplus" is already committed as part of previous budget deals and "is not available for spending."
Second, Drazkowski and Miller say this fictitious "surplus" resulted from Republicans forcing Minnesota to "live within its means." That's not true, either. Why not? Because "for the first time ever, Minnesota has engaged in deficit spending by borrowing against future revenues from tobacco settlement funds," according to a piece in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune by DFL legislators Lyndon Carlson and Dick Cohen. "This unprecedented (borrowing) netted $640 million in one-time cash, but it will end up costing us more than $1 billion to pay off the debt and the interest; much like a high-interest credit card."
On top of that, a chunk of the "surplus" comes from holding back money promised to public schools, including Winona's. As a result, two-thirds of Minnesota's public schools have to borrow money - and local taxpayers are stuck with the interest expense. According to Carlson and Cohen, Minnesota is one of only two states to use such an expensive tactic. The other is California, the former Golden State that's now nearly bankrupt.
But the distortion from Miller and Drazkowski doesn't end there. Miller recently wrote that part of the "surplus" resulted because Minnesota got more federal money than expected for health care. He didn't add that that "extra" money came from the Affordable Care Act; better known as Obamacare, which Republicans love to hate - unless the money comes their way.
Another factor Miller never mentioned about the "surplus" is that some of it came from federal stimulus money, another Obama initiative that Republicans routinely attack.
But Drazkowski takes the cake for unmitigated gall when he calls local officials "fiscally irresponsible" and "cowardly" for raising taxes as a result of state budget cuts. If you ask me, it's irresponsible and cowardly of Drazkowski to claim that Minnesota is living within its means when it's actually being elbowed into unprecedented borrowing by policies Drazkowski supports. As Carlson and Cohen wrote, "The Republican majorities may claim to be living within their means, but to them that means borrowing billions of dollars and placing the burden for their irresponsible budget squarely on middle-class Minnesotans."
Funny how neither Drazkowski nor Miller said a word about that.
Steven Schild is a member of the Winona Area Public Schools school board.