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Time running out to complete state budget
Senator Rod Skoe
The legislature has reached the final days of the 2011 session. By May
23 – less than three weeks from now – we have to agree with the Governor
on a budget under which the state will operate for the next two years.
Right now, we have $5 billion less in the state’s coffers than we need
to fulfill all of the obligations we’ve made. Those obligations include
keeping hospitals and nursing homes open, keeping police departments
funded across the state, providing tax deductions for things such as
education, and other basic, everyday services.
We’ve known since January that we need to make serious spending cuts in
order to erase the deficit and be able to fund Minnesota’s priorities.
Many of my colleagues and I, as well as Governor Mark Dayton, believe
that new revenue also needs to be part of the solution to make sure our
schools, hospitals and most essential priorities don’t suffer. That’s
been the main debate: What spending to cut, how much, and whether to
But at some point, the debate needs to turn to action. The majority
parties in the House and Senate are required to present a budget
proposal, as is the Governor. Governor Dayton presented his complete
budget proposal in early March, which included deep spending cuts and
new revenue to solve the deficit.
So far, the Republican majorities in the House and Senate have not done
the same. While they have passed a number of budget bills, their total
budget plan is at least $1 billion short of solving the $5 billion hole.
That’s a fact confirmed by non-partisan fiscal experts, not just
rhetoric. The two Republican majorities in each body also have yet to
sit down and work out differences between their two plans. If two groups
from the same political party can’t come to a compromise, it’s difficult
to think how they will be able to compromise with the Governor in the
next 20 days. The House and Senate need to fill the more than $1 billion
hole and send a legislative budget to Gov. Dayton soon.
Governor Dayton has made many efforts to begin these conversations.
This week, he set a deadline of Friday, May 6 to complete the
legislative budget work so negotiations can begin. So far, that has been
met with little response, as conference committees haven’t progressed
this week and the Senate has spent most of its time on policy bills that
don’t address the budget at all.
We’re too far along in the legislative session to be at this place.
We’ve had four months to have political debates; now it’s time to
have an honest conversation about what we need to do to complete our
work by May 23. I am ready to compromise on issues to come to an
agreement, but I can’t do that until we have a budget package that
balances to vote upon. I’m very hopeful that by next week, I’ll be able
to report we’re closer to this goal.
If not, it’s increasingly likely that this Republican legislature will
not finish its work on time. The new budget cycle begins July 1. There’s
no way around it – either we finish our work and create a budget that
funds our state’s services, or the government shuts down at midnight on
June 30. That’s an unacceptable scenario that the people of Minnesota do
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