Letter: Legislature offers balanced approach to state budgetThe Legislature ended the 2009 Legislative Session by offering the governor a balanced approach to solving the state’s $6.4 billion budget shortfall
By: Dist. 22 Sen. Jim Vickerman, DFL-Tracy, Worthington Daily Globe
The Legislature ended the 2009 Legislative Session by offering the governor a balanced approach to solving the state’s $6.4 billion budget shortfall. Its final bill resolves the deficit through budget cuts, federal stimulus funds and an increase in permanent revenue.
A balanced approach is what Minnesotans wanted, and is what the state needs. This session, we focused on what the citizens of Minnesota wanted, and that was a balanced approach. We conducted several listening sessions to meet face to face with our constituents, and hear what they had to say.
The legislators traveled the state to speak with citizens in communities across the state to hear their thoughts on the budget. Thousands of Minnesotans attended the events and shared their ideas. Thousands more shared their thoughts on the Senate and House Web site that focused on the state budget.
The message we received from those meetings was clear. Minnesotans wanted to balance the budget for the long term, to avoid “shifts” and “gimmicks” that simply delay the problem, to streamline and cut government and to raise enough revenue to maintain vital government services.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed most of the Legislature’s budget bills into law, but has promised to veto any legislation involving new taxes. Without the new revenue in the Legislature’s proposal, there will be a gap in the budget. Gov. Pawlenty has stated that he will use his unallotment authority to cut state funding to make up for that gap.
Our plan protects hospitals, nursing homes, public safety and shields local units of government from local government aid cuts, which would result in big property tax increases. By taking the cuts into his own hands, the governor puts all of those priorities at risk.
Along with the balanced budget, the Legislature also passed several bills that will have a positive statewide and local impact. Legislation passed to:
- Utilize funding for the Legacy Act that will invest in Minnesota’s environment
- Increase funding to the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV) for homeless veteran outreach
- Increase funding to Minnesota Veterans Homes
- Improve regulation on reverse mortgages, and
- Held K-12 Education funding flat, using Federal American Resource and Recovery Act (ARRA) dollars to sustain education budgets for the coming biennium.
Legislation that had an impact locally included language to:
- Authorize the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to extend the Casey Jones Trail and work with the Friends of the Jackson County Trails in planning and developing the Des Moines River Valley Trail.
- Allow a $3 million loan forgiveness to the Buffalo Ridge Railroad Authority, which will allow them to apply for federal funds needed to improve the rail line in Rock and Pipestone counties, and
- Eliminate the time limit for the city of Worthington to use the $800,000 grant given in 2006 for the remediation and demolition of the former Campbell Soup property for public redevelopment.