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Session 2003

Session 2003: Budget and Taxes

After a drawn-out battle on whether to raise taxes, Senate DFLers decided at the end of the regular session to abandon the fight. Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger said Democrats became convinced Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, was prepared to shut down the government rather than break his pledge not to raise taxes. That meant a $4.23 billion budget shortfall was erased solely through shifts, cuts and fees. The biggest cuts came in health and social services programs.

It wouldn't be the Minnesota State Fair if there weren't some politicking among the cheese curds and livestock exhibits. It's not an election year for state officials, but that hasn't stopped politicians from converging on the fair. Republicans have handed out "DFL lies on a stick", and Democrats are gathering signatures asking Gov. Pawlenty to release his tax returns. (08/22/2003)
Funding for teen programs around Minnesota is dwindling as a result of the state budget crisis. As youth programs statewide reduce their services for things like housing and employment, there's growing concern no one's left to pick up the slack. (07/16/2003)
The state's new fiscal year begins on July 1, free of any statewide tax increases. The no-new-tax budget was a key priority for Gov. Tim Pawlenty's administration. But that doesn't mean state government will be starved for new revenues. New fees -- and increases in old ones -- will add hundreds of millions of dollars to state coffers over the next two years. (06/29/2003)
A war of words has erupted at the highest levels of state government in the wake of a newspaper article about Minnesota's sexual offender program. The article in Sunday's Star Tribune was headlined, <i>State looks to release sexual psychopaths.</i> Attorney General Mike Hatch is criticizing the Pawlenty administration for forcing early release of predators to save state money. Pawlenty chief of staff Charlie Weaver counters the article is wrong, and Hatch's claims politically motivated. (06/23/2003)
Last month, the Minnesota Legislature erased a $4.2 billion projected deficit with a mix of spending cuts, one-time money and payment shifts. The three major Wall Street rating agencies have now rendered their verdict on the budget fix; one agency downgraded Minnesota's credit rating, while the other two said Minnesota still deserves to hold the top rating. State budget experts say Minnesota is among the majority of states reluctant to raise taxes to balance the budget. (06/17/2003)
Minnesota has lost its top credit rating from one of three Wall Street bond houses. Moody's Investors Services Monday knocked the state's rating down a notch from Aaa to Aa1. The change means it will likely cost more for the state to borrow money. Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson is critical of how Gov. Pawlenty is handling the state's finances, and says the downgrade sends a bad signal about financial management. Carlson talked with <i>Morning Edition</i> host Cathy Wurzer. (06/17/2003)
Cities on the Iron Range say they're getting a double dose of cuts from the Legislature, just when the Range is facing more mine closures. But the Pawlenty administration says the Iron Range has been getting more aid than it deserves for years. (06/05/2003)
City leaders across Minnesota are preparing to tighten their fiscal belts. DFL lawmakers say the newly-passed state budget means cities, mostly in greater Minnesota, will see a 25 percent average cut in state aid payments. Some say the cuts will result in fewer services and higher property taxes. Officials in Bemidji are hoping to avoid cuts to essential services like police and fire protection. (06/04/2003)
Gov. Tim Pawlenty says the state budget can absorb a minor downturn in the economy but not another major drop. Speaking in Minneapolis, Pawlenty said the budget that passed the Legislature builds up a reserve of more than $500 million, so if there's a &quot;minor hiccup&quot; the state should be able to deal with it. But if the economy tumbles badly, Pawlenty says state officials will have to re-evaluate all their options. Listen to Pawlenty's wide-ranging discussion at a meeting of the Society of Professional Journalists. (06/04/2003)
Minnesota Republicans and Democrats are traveling the state telling their side of the legislative story. Gov. Tim Pawlenty explains that cuts were necessary to balance the state budget. Democrats argue the cuts were too deep. Local officials are still trying to filter the facts from the rhetoric, but many in rural Minnesota feel unfairly targeted by budget cuts. (06/03/2003)
Gov. Pawlenty and DFL legislative leaders began separate tours of the state on Monday to talk about the 2003 session. The governor achieved much of his legislative agenda, and is highlighting the accomplishments of the session. Democrats, on the other hand, believe the Republican-backed budget will erode Minnesota's quality of life. (06/02/2003)
An easing of gun laws, a new set of graduation standards and a balanced budget despite huge deficits were the some of the hallmarks of a long legislative session. ( 06/02/2003)
The 2003 special legislative session has gavelled to a close after the House and Senate completed work on $4.2 billion deficit reduction package. The last major budget item to pass was a tax bill that funds aids to local governments. The aid cuts proposed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and House Republicans, however, shook Senate DFLers and may have opened a rift in that caucus. (05/30/2003)
A bill that authorizes borrowing of $237 million for capital investments was one of the final bills passed by the Legislature. The bill provides funding for statewide projects in the arts, flood relief and higher education. The bill was a top priority of Senate DFLers who said it would stimulate the economy. Opponents say the bill is inappropriate during a budget crisis. (05/30/2003)
Legislative inaction has forced state lawmakers into at least one more day of budget wrangling as they struggle to erase a projected $4.2 billion deficit. But House and Senate leaders say they hope to break the impasse later today with final votes on both a health and human services package and a bonding bill that borrows money for state building projects. (05/29/2003)

Audio Highlights

Pawlenty's session postscript (6/4/03)
The governor discusses the budget and the session during a speech to the Society of Professional Journalists' meeting in Minneapolis
The view from former governors (5/13/03)
Former governors Arne Carlson, Wendell Anderson, Elmer L. Andersen and Al Quie give free advice to Gov. Pawlenty
Gov. Pawlenty announces "unallotment" cuts Takes action after legislators fail to make a deal (2/7/03)
Gov. Pawlenty inaugural address
Pawlenty's budget message (2/18/03)
Issues budget in attempt to close deficit
Pawlenty unveils budget cuts Proposes a mix of cuts to close short-term deficit (1/14/03)