After a month-long experiment seeking to gauge the state budgeting preferences of Minnesotans, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) released an analysis of budget solutions submitted to their online budget simulator, MyMNBudget.com. The site, which has attracted over 3,600 visitors since being launched last month, allows users to create their own state budgets by raising taxes and/or cutting spending to balance Minnesota’s projected $5.8 billion budget deficit. A key finding of the analysis is that across all party lines, users favored a balanced approach of both spending cuts and tax increases to close the state’s budget gap.
“With over 600 balanced budgets submitted to the website—and new submissions rolling in each day—we are thrilled that everyday Minnesotans are so deeply engaged in the state budget discussion,” said CGMC President Rick Wolf, Mayor of Hibbing. “These individuals have proven that creating a detailed budget solution that avoids gimmicks and accounting shifts is entirely possible and palatable. It’s time for the gubernatorial candidates to follow suit and put forth budget plans that are as complete and honest.”
CGMC’s senior policy analysis, Steve Peterson, analyzed all budget submissions and found that 65 percent of users included both tax increases and spending cuts to balance the state’s budget deficit, while 23 percent balanced the budget through revenue increases alone and 12 percent through spending reductions alone.
“While this is not a scientific survey, it does show how people of different political persuasions who take the time to learn about the complexity of the state budget would solve the $5.8 billion budget deficit,” Peterson noted.
From the 577 balanced budget submitted through Sept. 27, the analysis excludes those that increased taxes or cut spending by more than $7.9 billion, or $2.1 billion greater than the budget deficit; this parameter was employed to eliminate submissions with low political viability, and consequently removed 87 budgets from the analysis. Of the 490 balanced budgets analyzed, 275 reported their voting patterns, with 31 percent reporting as Democrats, 30 percent Republicans and 39 percent Independents.
Key findings from MyMNBudget.com submissions:
- The average budget submission increased revenues by $3.9 billion, cut spending by $2.1 billion and produced a $304 million budget surplus.
- 71 percent of Republican budgets included new revenue, while 29 percent solved the budget through spending cuts alone. The average Republican’s revenue increase was $2.7 billion.
- 35 percent of Democrats solved the budget through revenue increases alone, while 60 percent included a mixture of revenue increases and spending cuts. The average Democrat’s revenue increase was $4.8 billion.
- 79 percent of Independents used a mixed approach of both revenue increases and spending reductions to solve the budget and produced an average $3.7 billion in revenue.
- The most common sources of new revenue were taxes on income, liquor and cigarettes and an expansion of the sales tax.
- The most commonly cut programs were the legislature, governor’s office and Campaign Financing.
- 14 percent of users increased funding for K-12 Education, which made it the most likely program to receive a funding increase.
- However, in addition to medical assistance programs, K-12 Education also saw the largest average cut in total dollars spent.
The MyMNBudget.com site will continue to be available for users to learn about Minnesota’s budget and submit budget plans.