Agreement is growing: constitutional budget amendments are wrong for Minnesota

/ 8 March 2012 / jennifer

Barb Brady, Minnesota Budget Project, March 8, 2012 –

The drumbeat of opposition to proposed constitutional budget amendments continues to grow. Individuals, organizations and the news media are increasingly speaking out against amending the state constitution to impose strict restrictions on budget decisions.

Minnesota newspapers have featured a number of editorials and guest columns criticizing the idea of legislating by constitutional amendment. Here are quotes from a few:

  • “Constitutional amendments should not be a substitute for solving problems that can be resolved with regular legislation that has been studied and vetted.” – Mankato Free Press editorial
  • “… it seems Minnesota’s partisan legislators have discovered an easy out for them on specific policy dilemmas: Instead of deciding for themselves or having to compromise, let the people take them off the hook.” –  St. Cloud Times editorial
  • “The lesson: once a constitutional question is voted on and passed, all the laws in the universe will not change unintended consequences. If you make a mistake, you are stuck with it, no matter what.” – Former Senator Steve Murphy column in Red Wing Republican Eagle
  • “A constitution should be a framework for government, and amendments should add to that structure. By putting issues of the moment in the form of amendments on the ballot, we may be diluting the value of the constitution.” – International Falls Journal editorial.

A constitutional amendment that would require a supermajority vote of the Legislature to raise taxes has been the subject of several recent editorials and columns. Here are some examples:

  • “In reality, a supermajority amendment often just constrains legislative options, requires temporary budget solutions, creates more frequent legislative stalemates and brings higher borrowing costs for the state.” – West Central Tribune editorial
  • “I think you will see programs that help fund our university educational systems, our K-12 education, nursing homes, and others just dry up.” – Crookston Daily Times column by Mayor David Genereux
  • “If this goes to the ballot and is passed, it would lead to bigger legislative struggles, more state shutdowns, budget setting through the constitution, and the most ineffective government ever seen in Minnesota.” – Column by New Ulm Mayor Robert Beussman and East Grand Forks Mayor Lynn Stauss printed in the Granite Falls Advocate Tribune, Grand Forks Herald, Wadena Pioneer Journal, Alexandria Echo Press and Montevideo American News. Also from this column: “The uncertainty of the system will also exacerbate the tax unfairness now in place, making it impossible to pass any tax reform or fairness through the legislative process.” And: “If future legislatures cannot increase taxes or expenditures on the state level, they will find it even easier to pass the cost on to local entities.”

A growing number of Minnesotans see that these amendments are short-sighted, won’t deliver on their promises and are wrong for Minnesota. Now it’s time for the Legislature to see that these rigid requirements would result in unintended consequences that would harm Minnesota for years to come.

-Barb Brady