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Tom Emmer announces budget targets Tuesday if he is elected governor. The Republican candidate would keep spending to about $33 billion in the next two years, the amount of revenue the state expects with no tax increases.

Emmer outlines rest of budget plan

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ST. PAUL -- Tom Emmer wants to limit state spending to revenues already flowing into Minnesota government, but achieving that goal would mean cuts in several areas.

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Among proposals getting the strongest reaction is a nearly $700 million cut to local governments.

Emmer, Minnesota's Republican governor candidate, on Tuesday released the final part of his budget proposal, listing amounts he would spend in major state budget areas but not details about what he would cut or increase.

For instance, he said he would cut Local Government Aid and other state money sent to cities and counties from nearly $3 billion in the current two-year budget to $2.3 billion in the budget beginning next July 1. (Local governments expect to receive $3.5 billion in the next budget.) But he did not say just what would be cut.

The state representative from Delano said his proposal is the most specific of any of the three major candidates. Democrat Mark Dayton and Tom Horner of the Independence Party also have laid out budget proposals, with unspecified new revenues and budget cuts.

Cuts are needed in some areas to allow growth in others, such as the ever-increasing cost for the state to fund health care for the poor.

Emmer earlier proposed lowering taxes on the state's businesses by $600 million, leaving $32.3 billion in taxes and other revenues to spend. He repeatedly has said he will not raise taxes.

Overall, Emmer said, he would keep public school spending the same as in the current budget, but would cut higher education from $2.8 billion to $2.5 billion. He would increase health and human services spending, such as health services for the poor, from $9.1 billion to $9.75 billion, far less of an increase than many in the field expect.

Other state agency spending would shrink from $4.5 billion to $3.9 billion, but Emmer said the state workforce is aging so he expects retirements to help lower costs.

Emmer said he will work with both major parties to reform government. "We will not tolerate people who say it can't be done."

Those who count on state aid were not happy with Emmer's proposal.

"Under Tom Emmer's plan, we'll all feel the pain when we dig deeper into our wallets to pay more for the services that keep our communities strong: police, fire protection, libraries, parks, snow plowing, senior centers and more," said Hibbing Mayor Rick Wolff, president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities.

Emmer would limit local aid to public safety and "critical infrastructure needs," as he said the program was designed. A new formula for distributing the smaller pot of local aid money would be drawn up during next year's legislative session, he said, along with reducing mandates the state places on local governments.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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