Local budgets face dismantlingThe ax has finally fallen in Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s decision to unilaterally cut the state budget through the unallotment process.
By: Steve Murphy, Red Wing, The Republican Eagle
The ax has finally fallen in Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s decision to unilaterally cut the state budget through the unallotment process.
He recently announced his plan, under which he will drastically reduce funding for city and county fire and police protection, cut Minnesota’s nursing homes, colleges and universities, and shift nearly $1.8 billion in funding for our schools.
Instead of working with the Legislature to adopt a fiscally responsible and fair solution to the state’s budget deficit, the governor opted to go it alone. He refused to accept our balanced budget or make any effort to compromise.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, the governor’s plan will only lead to further job loss, increased property taxes and tuition, nursing home and hospital closures, and financial instability for our schools. During this economic recession, the very last thing Minnesota needs is for less people to be working, more family budgets to be stressed with loss of health care, skyrocketing property taxes, and a disinvestment in the institutions that make our state economically competitive.
But we’ve got a governor more concerned with his national political ambitions than the future success of Minnesota. He’s made it clear he’s not willing to expend the effort to craft a sustainable and compromise budget solution. Instead, he’s going to cut and run.
The power to unallot was passed into law in 1939, and was originally designed to aid in fixing small, unanticipated budget deficits. It is traditionally a little-used power, except that Pawlenty likes to abuse this allowance.
Unallotment has been used only five times in the past 70 years, with Pawlenty using it three of those times. The governor’s proposed $2.7 billion unallotment is larger than all five of the previous unallotments combined, and nearly 10 times more than the largest single unallotment.
The governor’s proposed unallotments include a $300 million cut in Local Government Aid and County Program Aid, which is primarily used for public safety and other essential services.
Locally, over the next two years, this means a $472,000 cut to Wabasha County, a $1 million cut to Goodhue County.
City budgets will also be negatively impacted under the governor’s plan. St. Charles is going to see an $118,000 reduction in state aid, Kenyon $129,000, Wabasha $176,000, Zumbrota $197,000, Cannon Falls $316,000, Lake City $365,000, and Red Wing a $1.25 million cut.
Home and business owners are going to feel the impact of these cuts with increased property taxes and likely cuts to police and fire rescue, snowplowing, libraries, and other local government services.
The governor also plans to use an irresponsible $1.77 billion K-12 education funding shift, an accounting trick that may cause some schools to have to borrow to make ends meet. He plans a $100 million cut to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and the University of Minnesota, making a higher education less affordable for Minnesota families.
The governor also continues his assault on low-income Minnesotans through his unallotments. He decreases the renters’ refund program by $51 million, resulting in a tax increase for renters.
He also cuts $236 million out of health care. This includes eliminating funding for the General Assistance Medical Care program — which provides basic health care for Minnesota’s poorest and sickest — a month and a half earlier than it would have ended under his line-item veto of the program.
It’s not too late for the governor to do the right thing for Minnesota to develop a fair and responsible state budget. He has the option of calling the Legislature back into special session and working on a compromise that could provide the opportunity for economic recovery and future prosperity. Unfortunately for our state, that’s unlikely to happen. We’ve got a governor with one foot out the door, and we’ll be left picking up the pieces of his dictatorial decisions for years to come.
Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, can be reached at 651) 385-7649 or email@example.com.