Political maneuvering begins in budget battle

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As the budget battle at the state Capitol gets going, MinnesotaRepublicans are promising to obstruct efforts to both cut expenses and raise taxes. DFLers are looking at a pending stimulus plan from the White House in February in order to guide how the budget session takes place. And at least one DFLer thinks that Gov. Tim Pawlenty might change his stance on taxes (or “revenue enhancements”) to help fill a historic $4.8 billion deficit.

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, says his caucus would not vote for any tax increases, with the only possible revenue generator an expansion of state-sponsored gambling. He called any tax increase “dead on arrival” during a press conference late last week.

Pawlenty continues to talk of “no new taxes,” but Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, allows that Pawlenty has indicated he would support “revenue enhancements,” and those enhancements could mean sales taxes on food and clothing.

“If I’m correct in reading between the lines, that is the kind of revenue enhancement the governor means, but I don’t know,” Olson told the Bemidji Pioneer.

On the other half of the equation to balance the budget, Seifert wants to put DFLers on the hook for what will surely be painful cuts to public programs and services. In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio’s Kerri Miller last month, Seifert said, “I probably will not be voting for any of these cuts.”

And he won’t be encouraging his fellow Republicans to support cuts either. “The budget bills coming up, I will be giving suggestions, ideas and the like on how to balance the budget,” he said. “But I can tell you that the political road is littered with the bodies of House Republicans who made tough decisions on balancing the budget.”

While the Republican caucus looks for ways to pin painful cuts on Democrats, DFLers are working toward the very real possibility that an Obama administration will be sending a large sum of money to Minnesota. late last week with DFLers who anticipate anywhere between $1 billion and $10 billion to eventually show up in Minnesota. The DFL’s first bills submitted this week are tailored to streamline any stimulus money.

Some Republicans say that if the bill does not meet their standards, they might vote to reject the money.

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