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Column: Minnesota's current economic path works

Think about this: 2010 was the last time Minnesota received a negative economic forecast.

Yet Gov. Mark Dayton and our new Democrat-led Legislature seem bound and determined to chart a new fiscal road, complete with billions of dollars' worth of tax increases and spending -- without telling us why.

On Feb. 28, Minnesota's latest budget update was more positive than many of us imagined. It included a $295 million improvement in the budget cycle that ends in a few months. By law, that money will be used to pay back even more of the amount borrowed from our schools, and to pad our budget reserves.

As for the $1.1 billion budget deficit predicted for 2014-15, that projected shortfall has now been dropped to $627 million.

Finally, during 2016-17, the nonpartisan state economists say

Minnesota's economy will receive a clean bill of health if we continue doing what we're doing. If that happens, Minnesota is projected to have a $782 million surplus.

But if the budget bills being offered by the governor and House majority are any indication, we're going to be doing things much differently than we have since 2010.

Our 2010 budget was based on living within our means, limiting the growth of government, and leaving tax rates alone.

During that time our unemployment rate dropped dramatically, tens of thousands of jobs were added, and what was once projected to be a $6.2 billion deficit was turned into a $2.8 billion surplus in one budget cycle.

Now the opposition is blasting ahead with calls to increase state spending by $2.5 billion and increase taxes by $3.7 billion, and there's no reason for it.

What bothers me the most, besides it being completely irresponsible, is that the budget proposal before us entrenched both parties into gridlock. Instead of a proposal that showed some wiggle room and encouraged cooperation and bipartisanship, the unbelievable overreach displayed by the governor forced the two sides into a battle over principles. Not once did Dayton say we needed a specific amount for a specific purpose. Instead he just launched an all-out assault on our state's economy.

In the next two or three months, the final budget decisions made by

Democrats won't center on whether to raise taxes, but rather which taxes to hike and by how much. This is truly unfortunate, considering we don't need to be pushed down a new economic path when it's clear the fundamentals we enacted two years ago are working well.

Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, can be reached at 651-380-4345 or