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Pawlenty to announce his budget cuts today

ST. PAUL -- Today is when Gov. Tim Pawlenty tells people who receive state money how much he plans to cut from their budgets.

The Republican governor this afternoon will announce how he will balance the state budget after he and Democratic-Farmer-Labor legislative leaders failed to reach a budget deal before lawmakers went home for the year last month.

Pawlenty and Commissioner Tom Hanson of Minnesota Management and Budget took on the task of making budget cuts themselves, with health and human services, aid to local government, higher education and many state agencies expected to take hits.

Pawlenty also plans to delay sending some state checks to schools until the next two-year budget.

However, Pawlenty's spokesman said, the governor still will be open to ideas because his cuts do not take place until July 1, when the next two-year, $31 billion budget begins.

"We are certainly open to suggestions," Brian McClung said.

So far, only about a dozen legislators have given Pawlenty their ideas for what to cut, despite the governor's specific request for them to contribute.

Among the most controversial issues has been Pawlenty's plan to cut aid to cities and other local governments.

A Pawlenty budget plan would have cut local government aid, money paid to cities, by what he says is no more than 5 percent of the total property-tax-plus-state-aid funding. But city leaders say that would come on top of earlier cuts, including ones last year that came just days before cities were expecting state checks.

The governor has said small cities would be spared cuts.

Public school education will not be affected, McClung said, although like other state agencies the state Education Department could.

Most state agencies will experience cuts, although McClung said that public safety, veterans and military programs will not.

The cuts Pawlenty announces today probably will focus on the second year of the budget.

"He is looking to align these reductions in a way that provides the most possible flexibility for those who will be impacted, including cities, counties and others," McClung said. "When possible, the impact is lessened in the first year."

Besides giving those receiving state money more reaction time, delaying the cuts for a year allows legislators to make changes for the second year when they return to St. Paul next February.