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Governor’s unallotmentcontrary to law’s intent

By Ann Lynch

Last week, the governor announced his budget-cutting plan to further reduce spending on local government aid, the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, and health care for the sickest and poorest in the state.

His plan also includes a $1.8 billion shift in payments to school districts that might force them to borrow from taxpayers to make ends meet.  

The governor’s proposed unallotments include:

• $300 million in Local Government Aid and County Program Aid, primarily used for local public safety and essential services.

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• $1.8 billion K-12 education funding shift that may cause some schools to have to borrow to bridge funding.

• $51 million decrease to the renters’ refund program, resulting in a tax increase for renters.

• $236 million reduction of health care, including eliminating the General Assistance Medical Care program, which provides health care for the sickest and poorest Minnesotans, 11⁄2 months sooner than would have happened as a result of Pawlenty’s line-item veto.

• $100 million cut to MnSCU and the U of M.

• $33 million in cuts to most state agency operating budgets.

I am very worried that these cuts to the state’s key infrastructure will result in additional private and public sector job losses throughout the state. It is puzzling to me why the governor would propose cuts that will lead to further job loss when our state is already struggling with an unprecedented unemployment rate and economic recession.  

The Legislature offered a solution that included strategic cuts paired with increasing revenue and this plan came from the thousands of Minnesotans we heard from who demanded a balanced solution.

I sincerely hope that the governor will reconsider his decision and start focusing on helping Minnesotans who are suffering in these difficult economic times.

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I am also bothered by the impact the cuts will have on our city and county budgets. The decision to further reduce local government aid will lead to a rise in property taxes with a reduction in essential services such as police and fire protection.

For example, the city of Rochester will lose nearly $6 million in state funding for its core services; Plainview and Chatfield will each lose $200,000 in aid; and Eyota will lose more than $100,000.    

Unallotment is an executive power that was put into law in 1939. It allows the governor to reduce funding for state expenditures when the state faces unanticipated budget deficits. The power has been used only five times in the last 70 years, with Pawlenty using it three of those five times.

The $2.7 billion unallotment is larger than all four of the previous unallotments combined and nearly 10 times more than the largest.

The governor’s use of unallotment is contrary to the intent of the law. It was not meant to be used when an executive is unwilling to compromise with the Legislature, but rather as a tool for when the state faces an unexpected fiscal crisis and the Legislature is not in session.

Finally, the governor has proposed eliminating the Minnesota Political Contribution Refund Program — a program that helps ordinary Minnesotans participate financially in the campaign of their choice.

For citizens who want to have their $50 political contribution refunded by the state, contributions must be made by June 30. For more information on this program, go to the Department of Revenue Web site at: http://www.taxes.state.mn.us.

As always, it is a pleasure to serve Senate District 30. If you have any questions or comments, please stop by the Capitol, give me a call, or drop me an e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Ann Lynch, DFL-Rochester, represents District 30 in the Minnesota Senate.

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