As the DFLers in charge of the Minnesota Legislature return home for the Passover/Easter break, they may have some explaining to do to constituents about why the mini-budget bill they just sent to Gov. Tim Pawlenty hits the people they say they’re there to protect so hard.
HF 1671 passed 76-55 in the Minnesota House of Representatives and 44-23 in the Minnesota Senate on Monday, and was presented to Pawlenty for his signature.
The bill trims $312 million from a $1 billion deficit remaining in the state’s budget for the current cycle. Thanks to Minnesota Budget Bites, we have a better idea of how they do it, and it’s not a pretty picture for disadvantaged Minnesotans.
For example, the bill makes the following cuts to traditionally DFL constituencies:
* College students will no longer be eligible for financial aid if they go beyond eight semesters of study to earn their bachelor’s degree.
* An additional $52.5 million in cuts to state aid to counties and cities in 2011, on top of $200 million in unallotment cuts this year, will likely mean property tax increases to maintain services. Property taxes are the most regressive form of taxation and are particularly difficult for retired homeowners to pay.
* The bill cuts $15 million in funding for transit in the Twin Cities and statewide. Lawmakers say this will be made up for by higher-than-estimated revenues from the state’s Motor Vehicle Sales Tax, but now that the federal cash-for-clunkers program is over, that revenue will probably decline, meaning buses and light rail funding could take another hit.
* Housing programs that improve and protect rental housing will see $4.9 million in cuts.
* Employment programs that help independent living, mentally ill and the blind are cut $1.3 million.
* The state’s Assigned Risk Plan, which helps employers purchase workers compensation coverage, will see $14 million transferred out of it.
* The DFL-controlled Legislature did reject $106 million in cuts to the renters tax credit that Pawlenty had proposed. And of course, Pawlenty proposed much deeper cuts to state aid to cities and counties than the Legislature approved.
In fact, DFLers are likely to sell this bill largely by saying, “It could have been worse.” How inspiring that message will be this November remains to be seen.