It#039;s time to get budget balanced

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 20, 2002

It's getting tiresome to see election-year politics getting in the way of a substantive solution to the state's budget deficit, but as long as lawmakers know their jobs are on the line this fall, it looks like a real fix will continue to elude the state.

The latest proposal, by the Senate Republicans, employs a set of accounting tricks that would "balance" the budget -- for this year, anyway.

Basically, the proposal would move money around on paper so the problem appears solved while doing nothing to change the fact that the state doesn't have enough money to fund its programs and commitments for the next budget cycle.

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The response by Senate Minority Leader Dick Day of Owatonna? "Who cares what you're doing as long as you're balancing the books?"

The problem with that statement is that the budget would not be balanced in any real way; funding shortfalls would just be put off another year for the next crop of legislators, and maybe a new governor, to deal with. This is perfect for Republicans who want to tell their constituents that they balanced the budget without raising taxes, but it doesn't do much for the state's financial health in the long term.

It's long past time for legislators to quit with the accounting gimmicks and start finding real solutions that use real money to pay for the state's wants and needs -- or start cutting things it can do without.

Politicians might even find that kind of common sense sells in their home districts better than they apparently think it will.