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Senate passes budget plan
By Laura McCallum
Minnesota Public Radio
February 11, 2002

Less than two weeks into the 2002 session, the Minnesota Senate has passed a budget-balancing plan. The Senate Monday voted 35-31 for a plan that would erase the nearly $2 billion shortfall this biennium. But it's unlikely the DFL-sponsored plan will win easy approval from the Republican-controlled House or Gov. Ventura.

Votes Monday as the Senate, voted 33-33 not to bring up a bill that would have allowed a handgun provision to be amended to it. Voting yes were 23 Republicans, 9 Democrats and 1 independent. Voting no were 3 Republicans and 30 Democrats.

Bachmann (R-Stillwater); Belanger (R-Bloomington); Berg (R-Chokio); Day (R-Owatonna); Dille (R-Dassel); Fischbach (R-Paynesville); Frederickson (R-New Ulm); Johnson, Debbie (R-Ham Lake); Kierlin (R-Winona); Kleis (R-St. Cloud); Knutson (R-Burnsville); Larson (R-Fergus Falls); Lesewski (R-Marshall); Limmer (R-Maple Grove); Neuville (R-Northfield); Olson (R-Minnetrista); Ourada (R-Buffalo); Pariseau (R-Farmington); Reiter (R-Shoreview); Robling (R-Prior Lake); Scheevel (R-Preston); Schwab (R-Albert Lea); Stevens (R-Mora)

Kiscaden (R-Rochester); Oliver (R-Deephaven); Robertson (R-Minnetonka)

Terwilliger (R-Edina)

Fowler (D-Fairmont); Johnson, Doug (D-Tower); Kinkel (D-Park Rapids); Langseth (D-Glyndon); Sams (D-Staples); Samuelson (D-Brainerd); Stumpf (D-Thief River Falls); Tomassoni (D-Chisholm); Vickerman (D-Tracy)

Anderson (D-St. Paul); Berglin (D-Minneapolis); Betzold (D-Fridley); Chaudhary (D-Fridley); Cohen (D-St. Paul); Foley (D-Coon Rapids); Higgins (D-Minneapolis); Hottinger (D-Mankato); Johnson, David (D-Bloomington); Johnson, Dean (D-Willmar); Kelley (D-Hopkins); Krentz (D-May Township); Lourey (D-Kerrick); Marty (D-Roseville); Metzen (D-South St. Paul); Moe (D-Erskine); Moua (D-St. Paul); Murphy (D-Red Wing); Orfield (D-Minneapolis); Pappas (D-St. Paul); Pogemiller (D-Minneapolis); Price (D-Woodbury); Ranum (D-Minneapolis); Rest (D-New Hope); Ring (D-North Branch); Sabo (D-Minneapolis); Scheid (D-Brooklyn Park); Prettner Solon (D-Duluth); Wiener (D-Eagan); Wiger (D-North St. Paul)


Lessard (I-International Falls)



(Associated Press)

The Senate plan uses up about half of the state's $653 million budget reserve, depletes the cash flow account, and makes permanent spending cuts of about $200 million a year. Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe says the Senate was responding to Gov. Ventura's demand that the Legislature move quickly to deal with the deficit.

"It's never much fun to deal with cutting budgets. But we understand that responsibility, we understand our constitutional mandate to make sure that this budget is balanced," says Moe.

Moe says once a new budget forecast is released at the end of the month, the Senate will begin work on the budget deficit for the next two-year budget cycle. Gov. Ventura has called on lawmakers to balance the budget through 2005. After meeting with four economists, Ventura said they agreed on the need for a long-term budget solution.

"They've also emphasized to me very strongly that the problem needs to be dealt with in a five-year window," says Ventura. "The quick fix through this year will serve through an election year, certainly, but that the problem could arise again."

Ventura says the economists agreed the state needs to replenish its budget reserve. If not, another recession would be devastating for the state. None of the budget plans, including the governor's, fully restores the budget reserve by 2005.

Ventura also blasted the House and Senate plans for not taking inflation into account in the next biennium. One of the senators who voted against the plan, Sen. Becky Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, says it's irresponsible to ignore inflation.

"We are leaving the state in worse shape, rather than better shape," says Lourey. "We are leaving a huge hole in '04 and '05, and we could well be leaving a huge hole in '03."

Lourey is also running for governor. Four other Democrats voted against the plan, because they were concerned about the spending cuts. The cuts include $75 million in health, human services and corrections programs, $50 million from higher education, and $15 million from early childhood and K-12 education.

Republican Minority Leader Dick Day says the Legislature could avoid spending cuts if it adopted his plan to freeze state government hiring.

"We're basically trying to lay a lot of hurt on seniors and kids, and people with disabilities, and a whole wrath of individuals, basically, I feel, because we're afraid to lower the number of bureaucrats," he says.

Day's hiring freeze failed on a party-line vote. Opponents say a hiring freeze won't result in the desired savings and will lead to layoffs. But House Republicans have included a hiring freeze in their plan. If nearly 2,700 positions aren't reduced by the end of the year, the House plan would authorize layoffs.

The House isn't moving as quickly as the Senate on balancing the budget. House Republicans have divided their plan into 11 different bills, which start moving through committee this week. The author of the Senate plan, Sen. Doug Johnson, DFL-Tower, says reconciling the two plans will be difficult.

"The House decision to have 11 finance bills, instead of one finance bill like the Senate has, makes it more confusing - not only for the Legislature but the general public as well," says Johnson. "It's really unfair, but that's the hand that we'll be dealt with as we go to conference committee."

Johnson says the bigger challenge will be agreeing on the level of spending cuts. The House plan cuts about $650 million. The House and Senate are in agreement on not raising taxes this biennium - but the governor's plan would increase taxes on cigarettes, gasoline and some services.

More from MPR
  • Session 2002 Issue Brief: State Finances