Legislature passes $312 million in cuts

Published 7:01 am Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Democrat-controlled Minnesota Legislature on Monday signed off on $105 million in cuts to local governments — a plan Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty indicated he would go along with.

That spending reduction is part of a larger bill that would cut Minnesota’s budget by $312 million — a partial fix to the state’s projected $1 billion deficit. The legislation passed the Senate on a 44-23 vote and the House 76-55.

Despite the bad news for cities like Austin, there is something of a silver lining in the bill: The cuts to local government were far less than the $250 million reduction Pawlenty sought.

For Austin, this means the difference between losing $408,000, versus nearly $1 million under the governor’s proposal. Either cut would be on top of nearly $900,000 already unalloted by Pawlenty this year.

The governor said through a spokesman that he plans to sign the bill if the final language presented to him lines up with the deal reached over the weekend during the conference committee process. The Monday vote came right before the Legislature started its week-long break in observance of Passover and Easter.

Of course, the bill only addresses roughly one-third of the state’s projected budget deficit. Minnesota legislators are planning to address the remaining $700 million with separate legislation, along with the help of an anticipated $400 million in federal aid on its way from Washington. By state law, the Legislature is required to have a balanced budget before adjournment, which is on May 17.

Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said the governor preferred a full deficit fix, but added that the staff was “doing our best to work with what they’re offering.”