Dayton was right that budget would bring painMinnesotans knew, or should have known, the final state budget would not please people. “My proposed budget solution will be reasonable, balanced – and painful – because I see no easy alternative,” Gov. Mark Dayton said in his inaugural address Jan. 3.
By: Don Davis, Forum Communications, Pine Journal
ST. PAUL – Minnesotans knew, or should have known, the final state budget would not please people.
“My proposed budget solution will be reasonable, balanced – and painful – because I see no easy alternative,” Gov. Mark Dayton said in his inaugural address Jan. 3.
After that, he repeatedly said he would not vote for his budget plan, but with a $5 billion deficit, there was no choice but to make deep cuts in some state programs.
Legislators knew agreeing on a budget would take a long time.
“I’m not making any summer plans,” Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, said when he took office Jan. 4.
Even on the Legislature’s first day, it was easy to find people like Reinert who predicted, or accepted the possibility, that passing a budget by a May 23 deadline was not possible.
They were right. When Dayton and legislative leaders came out of his office July 14 to announce their final budget deal, calling it an “all-frowns budget” was easy.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said accepting a plan no one liked was the “essence of compromise.”
“I told the Republican leaders in January that we are joined at the political hip,” Dayton said. “We could either make each other look good or make each other look bad. We made each other look bad.”
He was right about looking bad. Reactions in recent days have been overwhelmingly negative.
Since a special legislative session ended with the budget approved early Wednesday, July 20, one of the most positive reactions came from Gayle Kvenvold, Aging Services of Minnesota president: “This budget delivers mixed messages and mixed results for Minnesota seniors.”
State-funded health care and education spending earned some of the sharpest criticism.
The budget that ended on June 30 would have resulted in Minnesota spending $39 billion in the next two years. Money coming in was expected to be a bit more than $34 billion.
That left a $5 billion deficit. Dayton and Republicans who control the Legislature bridged that gap by using two forms of borrowing that gave the state almost $1.4 billion more money to spend and cut planned spending by a little more than that.
Education spending news was mixed. Most discussed was a $700 million delay in state payments to schools. But at the same time, the $14 billion school budget bill increases spending 5
The bill reduces some requirements, such as eliminating a Jan. 15 deadline for reaching a deal with employee unions. If that date is missed, schools were forced to pay a penalty. The bill, now law, forbids the state from directly borrowing from school districts, although delaying payments is allowed.
“This bill contains significant mandate relief,” said Chairman Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, of the House Education Committee.
Garofalo called his measure “a big win for rural Minnesota,” in part because schools with 1,000 or fewer students will receive more state money.
Still, the House’s top Democratic-Farmer-Laborite education funding member could not shake the payment delay.
“This bill ... steals money from children,” said Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville.
If education is the biggest state expense, the health and human services bill is the most controversial.
“There was a lot of need to find ways to compromise,” said Chairman David Hann, R-Eden Prairie.
Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, warned the measure chops $500 million out of what hospitals should receive, and takes $133 million away from nursing homes. He warned hospitals “are either going to go out of business or raise rates for everyone else.”
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Pine Journal.