Goal: A structurally balanced budget

Minnesota legislators will be sworn in today, and start the work of the 2013 legislative session.

Its goal, as it is each year, is a balanced state budget. But that means more than simply equalizing the income and the spending.

Legislators should be working toward a structurally balanced budget, one in which – if everything is working as it should – revenues and expenses are in balance, where growth in spending is matched by growth in revenue.

In the past decade, as the state and the nation have struggled with an economic recession, revenues have lagged behind the growth in spending, which often accelerates as more people in need seek government assistance.

Republicans have had the votes in the past to enforce a no-tax-increase approach, but lacked the votes to enforce the spending and program cuts they wanted. We have seen too many budgets balanced with with one-time funding shifts, taking money from tobacco suit funds, for instance, and spending shifts, which simply moved the spending into a different budget year.

Now that the DFL has control of the Legislature and the governor’s office, there will obviously be a different strategy for balancing the budget. Taxes will undoubtedly be raised. But to have a truly structurally balanced budget, the DFL must address spending as well. Spending has a way of outstripping revenues, unless the Legislature works to keep them in check.

The DFL has the votes and the power, and it also has the full responsibility to make government run efficiently and responsibly.

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