Weather Forecast


Pawlenty cuts will cost county $673,000

If Gov. Tim Pawlenty proceeds with his unilateral budget cuts next month, area counties will feel the pinch:

Becker County will lose $222,000 in state revenue this year and $451,000 next year.

Otter Tail County will lose $355,000 this year and $721,000 next year.

Hubbard will lose $137,000 this year and $279,000 next year.

Mahnomen County is one of five exempt from cuts because its population is under 5,000. (The others are Kittson, Lake of the Woods, Red Lake and Traverse).

Across the state, property taxes and college tuition will rise, hospitals and nursing homes will see deeper cuts, and school districts may be forced to borrow to make ends meet, according to Minnesota Sen. Keith Langseth, who represents Detroit Lakes.

Pawlenty announced his intentions to drastically reduce funding to cities and counties, cut nursing homes, and to shift $1.8 billion in school funding at a press conference on Tuesday.

Langseth said he is very concerned that the reductions in funding will mean additional private and public-sector job losses throughout the state.

"It doesn't make sense to cut even more jobs when our state is already struggling with a jobs deficit," said Sen. Langseth. "We offered a fair and balanced solution that he rejected. The governor decided he didn't want to do his job and negotiate a common-sense budget, so now he's continuing his attack on the things that make our state great."

Through a process known as unallotment, the governor and Budget Commissioner Tom Hanson have the authority to reduce the amount of state spending to prevent a deficit. Minnesota's Constitution requires a balanced budget, Pawlenty said at his news conference Tuesday.

"Families and businesses are battling their way through this prolonged economic downturn by reexamining their budgets, cutting expenses, and tightening their belts -- state government must do the same," Pawlenty said.

"The overall impact of these reductions will be to have state government live on about 96 or 97 percent of what it's living on right now. The impact will be felt, but we will get through this difficult economic period and position Minnesota for future growth by reining in government spending and keeping our state competitive."

Langseth said unallotment is a little-used power that was put into law in 1939 that allows the governor to cut funding for state expenditures.

It was originally designed to aid in fixing small, unanticipated budget deficits. The power has been used only five times in 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.

The governor's proposed unallotments include:

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

n $1.77 billion K-12 education funding shift that may cause some schools to have to borrow to bridge funding.

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

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

n $100 million cut to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and the University of Minnesota.

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

The cuts to aid for cities and counties are particularly troubling to Langseth.

"His decision to cut local aid is going to raise property taxes and cut local police and fire funding," he said. "The governor continues his longstanding tradition of pushing the tough decisions to cities and counties so he can have his hands clean.

Whether its police, fire or basic services like snowplowing, these cuts

are going to have an impact on our communities."

"Unallotment is a tool that's designed to be a scalpel, not an ax," said Sen. Langseth. "I hope the governor will reconsider the decision he's made and begin to focus on Minnesota instead of his own political future. Tough times are opportunities for people to come together and overcome, and I ask the governor to work with us to balance this budget fairly."

Pawlenty said the reductions and deferrals in state spending protect funding for K-12 education, public safety, military, and veterans.

As much as possible, the recommendations are weighed toward the second year of the two-year FY 2010-11 budget period, so that those impacted have an opportunity to plan ahead and the legislature can consider other options during the 2010 legislative session, which begins in February.

"I appreciate the suggestions we received from stakeholder groups, legislators, and more than 3,000 citizens as we assembled these recommendations," Pawlenty said. "Their input can be found in the way we exempted certain cities and counties and in our targeted approach to human services reductions, among other proposals."