Republicans at the Minnesota Capitol have introduced a proposal they hope will redesign state government via a public and private sector partnership.
The proposal from Republican Sen. Julie Rosen and Rep. Keith Downey, introduced at a news conference Monday, aims to start a $15 million to $20 million investment pool using annual appropriated state bonds sold to investors, particularly those in the nonprofit sector.
The money in the pilot program would only go to programs that could demonstrate a return on investment, such as workforce programs that aim to find jobs for the unemployed, Downey said. Programs would not receive any money if they do not meet their goals.
“This is perhaps one of the only truly transformative ideas since I have been at the Legislature,” Downey said. For Rosen, “this is exactly what we should be doing with state government.”
They argue the plan would force programs to set goals and reward only those that turn a profit. This could be expanded to other state government spending if the pilot is successful. Steve Rothschild, founder and chairman of Twin Cites RISE!, said the plan is only being tested, so there will be no savings to the state this biennium. Lawmakers have to tackle a $5 billion budget deficit this session. He said there is also no estimate for how much the plan could save in the long term. The program has not been tested in another state.
“The state can’t solve this problem,” he said. “The private sector is the only sector left to fix this.”
Backers touted the bill as bipartisan. DFL Rep. Paul Marquart, of Dilworth, and Dane Smith, president of left-leaning group Growth and Justice, were present at the news conference. Marquart said the Legislature and the governor can no longer tax or cut the state out of its problems. The plan, he said, would take limited dollars and target them at programs that work.
Smith admitted that he doesn’t fully understand the proposal yet, but said it’s a good first step for long term reform. “This by no means starts to solve the $5 billion budget deficit,” he said. “We are going to need to raise revenue in the end.”