Some groups not moved by deficit
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota legislators face a historically large deficit, and most groups that normally would be at the Capitol with hat in hand say they realize their funding will be cut.
But a few groups feel that what they do is so important that they need more state money despite a budget deficit now standing at $4.85 billion and expected to grow.
Education Minnesota, the state teachers' union, is one of those groups that continues to seek more money.
President Tom Dooher said the state needs to provide schools with "more resources," political-speak for "more money."
Dooher said many education supporters say schools need 4 percent to 6 percent more funding in the next two-year budget.
The Senate's top education finance member did not expect Dooher's request to be fulfilled.
"At this point, I don't think so," Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, said of the request.
The size of an increase some educators seek would cost $650 million, he said. "That has to be added to the $4.8 billion we are short already."
Education supporters are not the only ones to ask for more money, Stumpf said. "I don't think the reality of the situation has really hit home yet."
Minnesota's unresolved Senate race was featured -- well, mocked -- by Comedy Central's "The Daily Show."
"It's January and how hard is it to count to 3 million?" host Jon Stewart joked. "You're supposed to be one of the smart states."
Minnesota Sen. Steve Dille wants to end the state's political contributions refund program as a way to save $12 million in the next budget.
The program reimburses Minnesota taxpayers up to $50 a year for donations to candidates running for state offices and money given to major state parties. That money comes out of the state budget, the Dassel Republican said.
Minnesota has given the reimbursement since 1990, the same time the state set limits to how much can be donated to politicians and how much they can spend.
Not all smooth
Opening day of the Minnesota Legislature went pretty smoothly Tuesday, but there were a few bumps.
Senate bickering emerged minutes after Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau convened the 2009 Senate. Senators argued over how to fill the position of retired Senate Secretary Pat Flahaven.
Faced with a massive budget deficit, they also quibbled about deadlines for releasing budget-balancing proposals and over whether to limit Senate travel expenses and even whether to cut the number of stamps issued to senators for constituent mailings.