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Senate backs sex offender spending

ST. PAUL -- Keeping sex offenders and other dangerous criminals off the streets would get more than a third of Minnesota's new spending, the Senate Finance Committee voted Tuesday night.

About $70 million of the $204 million in new spending would go to state hospitals to house an increasing number of sex offenders as well as mentally ill and dangerous people being committed.

The Senate's budget proposal also would send $32 million to schools and spend $20 million to begin cleaning up the state's streams and lakes.

Also, child-care providers would get $14 million more.

Senate Finance Chairman Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, lumped all the budget changes proposed by eight budget subcommittees into one bill. The House plans to vote on seven budget bills by week's end.

House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said reaching agreements on budget issues will be difficult because of the different approaches taken by the two chambers.

Lawmakers and Gov. Tim Pawlenty approved a two-year, $30.1 billion budget last year. This year's Legislature only makes changes in the existing budget.

Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, said the budget bill is designed in part to fill in for budget cuts made in recent years.

"We are trying to restore fiscal sanity to the state budget," he said.

Senators divided $405 million available to be spent between spending in his budget bill and tax relief in a tax bill due on the Senate floor today.

The committee rejected several Pawlenty proposals, including his desire to establish an illegal immigrant task force and an Internet child pornography law enforcement team.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.