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As others see it: Talk cheap in sex-offender debate

Here's a radical idea for Minnesota lawmakers concerned about the unsustainable costs of the state's sex-offender program. Instead of complaining about it, do something about it.

Per capita, Minnesota locks up more sex offenders after their prison sentences than any other state. It already spends $64.9 million a year holding 552 offenders under civil commitment laws -- a patient population that's almost quadrupled in nine years. If the commitment rate continues, a 400-bed expansion of the Moose Lake facility that opened in 2009 will be full by the end of 2012, meaning an expensive addition will be needed.

That's the issue putting the sex-offender program back into the spotlight at the State Capitol -- which is exactly where the issue belongs in an age of deep state budget troubles. Gov. Tim Pawlenty wants $89 million put into the state's bonding bill to build the new addition. That request so far has been greeted with the same tired, unproductive rhetoric.

Legislators, including some whose 1994 votes lowered the threshold for civil commitment and fueled this program's rapid expansion, are decrying the program's costs and the need for an addition. House legislators reluctantly put the $89 million into their version of the bonding bill after Pawlenty threatened to veto any bill without it. The Senate did not fund a new addition in its bill. ...

What's missing are realistic, pragmatic solutions. If lawmakers don't have any, they should button up and put up the money to pay for the program they expanded.