Budget bill headed for governor’s desk


A supplemental budget bill that would solve nearly one-third of the state’s projected deficit is on its way to Gov. Tim Pawlenty‘s desk.

The House voted 76-55 to pass the conference report on HF1671*/ SF3223, the first of three budget-balancing bills expected this session. Shortly thereafter, the Senate passed it 44-23. Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said the governor intends to sign the bill.

Sponsored by Rep. Lyndon Carlson, Sr. (DFL-Crystal) and Sen. Richard Cohen (DFL-St. Paul), the bill would reduce the state’s estimated $994 million deficit by $312 million. It cuts state spending by $222 million, and includes $90 million in new revenue to the General Fund (mostly through one-time transfers from special accounts).

The bill touches on nearly every area of state government except health and human services, K-12 education and early childhood education. Reductions are made in the following areas:
• $105 million to county and city aids and credits;
• $47 million to higher education;
• $35.4 million to public safety;
• $33 million to state government operations;
• $24.1 million to environment and natural resources;
• $23.7 million to energy and commerce;
• $16.3 million to economic development;
• $14.5 million to transportation;
• $7 million to agriculture and veterans (including a $200,000 increase for veterans); and
• $2.5 million to arts and cultural heritage.

The bill passed with bipartisan support; however, some Republicans criticized it as being only a partial fix to a much larger budget problem.

“There’s some things in this bill that aren’t that bad, but we don’t know what the rest of the story is,” said Rep. Paul Kohls (R-Victoria).

DFLers said the next two budget bills, which will cover human services and education, respectively, are on hold while lawmakers await the results of a pending court case over Pawlenty’s unallotments, as well as a likely expansion of federal health care funding.

“What you’re voting on today is a significant part of balancing the state budget,” said House Majority Leader Tony Sertich (DFL-Chisholm).

A motion by Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Jordan) to send the bill back to conference committee was defeated 85-47.