by Ken Martin, chairman, Minnesota DFL
Recently, it was announced that Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt, the state’s top elected Republican, will lead Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign in Minnesota. When you consider the two Republicans’ failure to deliver on campaign promises and failure to support growing the middle class, it’s really not that surprising.
When elected, Walker promised to create 250,000 jobs and eliminate the deficit. He has failed Wisconsin: Wisconsin sits at the bottom of the Midwest in job growth and lags behind the rest of the country. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wisconsin has lagged the national average since July 2011. Under the leadership of Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota has added jobs and is ranked one of the best states to do business.
Minnesota is also a great state to live and work because of its support of unions and the middle-class jobs it adds to our economy. We cannot forget about Walker’s assault on unions when he changed the collective bargaining process for most public employees within the state because he won’t let us. In the first debate for the 2016 Republican presidential candidates, Walker said voters should pick him because he “won” his “fight against organized labor.” Wisconsin workers who depend on their jobs to provide for their families don’t see this as a “win.”
Walker likes to talk a game of fiscal responsibility, yet Wisconsin is facing a $2.2 billion budget shortfall. At the same time, Minnesota had a $1.9 billion budget surplus. While Daudt wanted to provide tax giveaways to corporations and owners of Minneapolis skyscrapers, thanks to the work of Gov. Dayton and DFL legislators, much of that money was invested in education and Minnesota’s future workforce.
Speaking of education, fewer Minnesotans drop out of high school before completing the 12th grade (7.6 percent) than Wisconsin (9.1 percent). More Minnesotans go on to college (66.1 percent) than students in Wisconsin (58.9 percent). More students in college means more residents with four-year degrees; about one-third of Minnesotans have college degree or professional degrees vs. 27.8 percent of people living in Wisconsin.
In his latest budget, Walker cut funding for K-12 education and slashed $250 million from the University of Wisconsin. At the beginning of the 2015 Legislative Session, Daudt and the House Republican Caucus proposed a 0.6 percent increase to K-12 funding. Under this proposal, school districts would have cut jobs and provided fewer opportunities for students. And knowing that an educated workforce drives our economy, Gov. Dayton and DFL legislators provided a two-year tuition freeze at Minnesota’s colleges and universities. Unfortunately this cost-saving measure for students and their families was brought to an end by Daudt and his caucus.
It’s no surprise that someone who has shown lack of leadership for his own state would stand by another failed leader. Daudt voted for the largest budget in state history and had a $1.9 billion budget surplus, but has little to show for it. Daudt could have delivered on campaign promises made to voters to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges and grow the economy, yet all he has to show is a session of missed opportunities.
The 2016 election is one of stark contrasts: Vote for short-sighted Republicans like Daudt and Walker who want the haves to have more, or vote for forward-thinking DFL candidates dedicated to providing opportunity for success to all. In 2016, let’s go blue for the Democratic candidate for president and return the Minnesota House of Representatives to DFL leadership.