DFL leaders in the Minnesota Legislature on Monday unveiled a budget deficit-erasing bill that gives Gov. Tim Pawlenty most of what he wanted, but will still probably get him to pick up his veto pen.
HF 2037 from Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL-Grand Rapids, is moving fast through both the Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate Monday, and could be on its way to Pawlenty’s desk by the time you read this.
The bill would ratify most of the $2.7 billion in unallotment cuts Pawlenty made last year, including $1.75 billion in K-12 education payment shifts that will cost local school districts money, even though the Minnesota Supreme Court last week decided Pawlenty had gone beyond the law in making those cuts.
That includes $100 million in cuts to higher education that will drive up tuition and put college out of reach for more Minnesotans, and $150 million in cuts to programs that serve the poorest, most disadvantaged Minnesotans.
Also, your property taxes would be going up, since the DFL-controlled Legislature is ratifying Pawlenty’s $365 million cut in aid to local governments. So cities, counties and townships will be cutting more and raising rates to make up for the loss.
Even through the DFL caved on so much, Pawlenty will likely veto the bill anyway. Why?
The bill assumes the state will not receive $408 million in federal Medicaid dollars that have been promised but not delivered yet by Congress, and seeks to fill that hole with $435 million in new revenue, including a new top tier income tax rate for Minnesotans making more than $200,000 as a couple per year.
This allows DFL lawmakers to go home and say “We tried to reach a compromise” without having to see those cuts take effect. But it should raise some interesting questions for DFL constituencies that thought the party might be willing to fight for them this time.
We’ve still got a week left in this act of the play. Stay tuned for the next finely choreographed dance steps.