Republicans propose $1 billion in cuts


Republican leaders proposed a package of budget cuts that they said would take an early bite out of the state’s projected $6.2 billion deficit.

House and Senate Republicans have introduced a bill that would cut more than $1 billion in state spending in the next biennium. They described it as the first step in a budgeting process that will continue after Gov. Mark Dayton releases his budget plan in February.

“It is our goal to pass legislation prior to Feb. 10 in order that the projected deficit will be reduced,” said Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (R-Lakeville), the sponsor of HF130.

The measure would make more than $840 million in one-time spending cuts permanent. These include $584 million in cuts to tax aids and credits (primarily to local governments); $185 million to higher education; and $72 million to various health and human services programs.

In addition, the bill would ask Minnesota Management and Budget to identify $200 million in savings that could be achieved by capturing unspent funds in agencies’ budgets. Holberg said agencies often rush to spend excess money before the end of the biennium in order to justify their funding levels. In a press release, the House Republican caucus referred to this as the “Christmas in June” effect.

House and Senate DFLers criticized the proposal as being piecemeal in nature, and said it broke a promise by Republican leaders to protect funding for programs that affect seniors and disabled Minnesotans.

“If you look at what they said earlier, they were going to focus on protecting kids, people with disabilities and the elderly. They’ve already broken that promise with this proposal,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls). He also accused Republicans of trying to push the hard work of budget cuts onto MMB staff, rather than identifying themselves where the $200 million in proposed savings might be found.

Holberg said DFLers agreed to the $840 million in spending reductions as part of last year’s budget agreement with former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, but Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) said DFLers never agreed to make the cuts permanent.

Dayton released a statement indicating he is unlikely to agree to the measure.

“I will not agree to piecemeal cuts and partial solutions,” Dayton said in the written statement.