Last week, Minnesotans got some very sobering news: our February budget surplus of $1.5 billion quickly disappeared and morphed into a $2.4 billion dollar budget deficit.
This means that when lawmakers return to the Capitol next January, 2021 they will be forced to drain our state’s “rainy day funds” as well as make significant budget cuts to balance the 2020/2021 budget.
During rosier economic times last year, the Walz administration negotiated a 2.25% raise that occurred in 2019 and another 2.5% raise that will take effect in July for state government employees – all 50,000 of them. (Yep, state government remains the largest employer in Minnesota.)
These employees are still receiving their full paychecks along with very generous taxpayer-paid benefits during the COVID-19 crisis that has caused nearly half a million Minnesotans to file for unemployment benefits.
Imagine the shock and horror at the Capitol when some very reasonable and responsible state legislators suggested that the legislature not ratify these contracts that award pay increases at this time.
Mind you, this isn’t asking essential (and non-essential) government employees to take a pay cut: it is merely freezing salaries at their current level while 20% of the state is unemployed.
On the other hand, I’ll bet there’s a lot of small businesses in Minnesota that would be happy to continue to pay their quarterly Minnesota business, property and income and sales taxes that pay the salaries of these 50,000 workers if they were allowed to open for business…