Pawlenty proposes $536M in cuts to trim deficitby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature are at odds over the best way to erase the state's remaining budget gap of roughly $500 million.
Pawlenty has a new plan to cut spending to make up for about $400 million he was relying on from the federal government.
Congress hasn't approved that money yet, and it looks like it won't be by the time lawmakers are supposed to go home.
With less than two weeks to go until the deadline for the Legislature to adjourn, the governor is calling on lawmakers to adopt a budget plan that relies heavily on cuts in aid to cities and counties, and health and human services programs.
Pawlenty called a news conference to announce his budget plan, but he couldn't provide all of the specifics on how deep the cuts would be to local governments.
"Aids and credits total in our recommendation was $257.8 million. Not all of that is LGA (local government aid). So we've got to get you that LGA number and we don't have that number. Do you have the LGA number?" Pawlenty asked budget commissioner Tom Hanson.
Hanson: "It's $111 [million]."
Pawlenty: "No, that's not all LGA. That's aids and credits. So we've got to get you that."
Hours later the state budget department released numbers showing Pawlenty wants to cut $176 million in state aid to local governments, $211 million in health and human services programs, $13 million in K-12 Education and take $95 million from an Iron Range economic development fund.
Pawlenty is proposing deeper spending cuts because he was relying on $405 million in federal money to fix the state budget. But Congress isn't expected to approve that money until the end of May at the earliest. Pawlenty said Democrats who control the Legislature should get their work done.
"They have a billion dollar problem that they broke into threes and they've done a third of it and they've been here for five months. It's ridiculous. In fact, it's pathetic," Pawlenty said. "They have time to process all kinds of bills that are unrelated of anything of consequence and they can't make additional progress on the most important issue of the session, which is to get the budget balanced. If they can't do it, I'll do it for them."
The Legislature has been in session for roughly three months, not five. DFL House Majority Leader Tony Sertich said the House and Senate already rejected Pawlenty's initial budget plan earlier this session, and it wasn't just Democrats who opposed it.
"Maybe the governor has to be around more to see this happening but his ideas are getting rejected in a bipartisan way by the Legislature," Sertich said. "Any rational person would then say, 'I need to come up with a new idea,' not just try to force old ideas down the throats of Minnesotans over and over again."
But House and Senate DFLers haven't released their plan to erase the state's budget deficit. DFL Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller says the House and Senate have contingency plans in place but he didn't offer specifics except to say he doesn't intend to rely on tax increases.
"Whether the governor helps or not, we're going to get this job done," Pogemiller said. "It would just be better for the future of the state and I would think it would be a legacy he would want to leave, to leave this state in as best fiscal condition as he could."
But with time running out, DFL legislative leaders and the governor appear to be headed toward familiar territory -- budget gridlock.
Both the House and Senate are working on a bill that would cut more than $100 million in health and human services spending. Pawlenty says he will veto the legislation.