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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ST. PAUL -- State budget cuts are under way. So is the anguish. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Friday drained the state's budget reserve and chopped away at state payments to local governments, colleges, human services providers and state agencies in balancing the state budget. Minnesotans should notice little change, Pawlenty said. Major cuts included $110 million from payments due cities and counties, $73 million from human services programs, $40 million from colleges and $40 million from various state agencies.
ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty balances the state budget this afternoon, but promises to preserve military, veterans, public safety and K-12 education programs. "Those areas this afternoon will not be cut, but others will be," the Minnesota governor said on his weekly radio show this morning. Under state law, the governor must drain the state budget reserve before he makes cuts to balance the budget. Pawlenty said his actions later today will total $470 million.
ST. PAUL - Al Franken took a lead today on what is supposed to be the final day the state Canvassing Board considers challenged U.S. Senate ballots. But with thousands of other ballots still not counted, the lead could be short lived. Franken entered today with a single-digit deficit to incumbent U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.
ST. PAUL - The cuts are beginning. Gov. Tim Pawlenty today announced plans to cut $271 million out of the state budget, including reducing $66 million from payments that cities and $44 million that counties had expected to receive a week from today.
Minnesota's budget deficit has produced lots of talk about reforming state government, especially from Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The Republican governor announced he will convene a summit on the subject on Jan. 5, the day before the Legislature returns to St. Paul. It will include "people from the right, the left, the center," he promised. "We want to make sure we are harvesting the best ideas," he said. The summit will be charged with the task of finding how to streamline state government.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., says the American economy can best be helped if taxes are not collected for a short time. "In this sagging economy, our nation's taxpayers are really hurting, and this year's marathon of bailouts hurts them more than ever," she said. "I come here today to support the tax holiday legislation because it's time that Washington bail out Americans, not bury them with extraordinary debt." Federal taxes would be suspended in January and February under the bill she co-sponsors. Democrats who control Congress are not expected to back the idea.
Minnesota's public broadcasters will get funds to help convert to digital transmissions. A $792,000 Corporation for Public Broadcasting grant is the country's second largest, said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who has worried that many Minnesotans will be left out of next year's digital conversion. "Preparing for the digital transition is especially important for Minnesota." Klobuchar said. "More than 21 percent of our households depend exclusively on over-the-air broadcast TV. They will be most affected by the transition.
ST. PAUL - The newly predicted budget deficit is making it unclear whether there will be a public works project bill in 2009. Known as a bonding bill, the Minnesota Legislature normally would pass at least a modest-sized one when it meets. However, even if no new borrowing is authorized for public works projects, the state is over a self-imposed limit for loan interest payments. The guideline does not allow more than 3 percent of the state budget to be spent on interest. Gov.
ST. PAUL -- Local governments will be called upon to help balance the state budget. Minnesota policymakers on Tuesday made it clear that programs such as Local Government Aid paid to cities will be included in a $426 million budget balancing act. Gov. Tim Pawlenty also announced he plans to implement a state worker pay freeze and urged local governments to follow suit as they are finishing next year's budgets. "We want to make sure we are leading by example," Pawlenty told reporters during an Associated Press legislative preview meeting.
ST. PAUL - A historic budget deficit of $5.2 billion faces Minnesota policymakers. The deficit for the two-year budget that begins July 1 will be $4.8 billion, The Associated Press reported, with the remaining $426 million coming out of the budget in the next six months. When Gov. Tim Pawlenty took office in 2003, he faced a then-record nearly $4.6 billion deficit. The Minnesota Constitution requires the state have a balanced budget.