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A look at Minnesota budget bills

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

ST. PAUL -- Republicans who control the House and Senate are pushing through budget bills that fund state government, over objections of Democrats and Gov. Mark Dayton.

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The bills are compromises between ones earlier passed by the House and Senate. However, real negotiations have yet to begin between Republicans and Democrat Dayton.

Lawmakers face a Monday deadline to agree on a two-year budget, but most political observers say a special legislative session will be needed to do the job.

The funding bills written by Republicans could become the basis of a final budget.

Public schools

-- Funds Minnesota public schools. $14 billion.

Bill spends nearly two-thirds of the entire state general fund. Republicans say the bill would keep classroom funding at current levels. Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said his bill has improved special education funding and made other changes to satisfy Dayton.

The bill requires teacher assessment and would grade schools. It also would allow low-income some students to get vouchers to attend private schools.

Teacher strikes would be prohibited and the seniority tenure system would be eliminated.

Health, human services

-- Funds health care and welfare-type programs for poor, disabled and elderly. $11 billion.

The second largest funding area provides mostly for the Health and Human Services and Health departments. There is a dispute about how many people would lose health coverage under the bill, but Dayton said it would be more than 120,000.

The budget is complex. The budget would be up from current spending, but it falls far short of what many health-care advocates say is needed to keep up with soaring medical costs. While cutting many programs, the budget is up $570 million from current spending.

Higher education

-- Funds University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities systems. $2.5 billion.

The two higher education systems face $441 million in cuts, which is 11 percent less than current spending. Officials of the two systems said the funding level is similar to 1998 and would lead to hundreds of layoffs.

The state grant program, which provides aid for private and public college students, would rise 7.3 percent.

Courts, public safety

-- Funds courts and public safety programs. $1.8 billion.

Bill cuts less spending than many programs, but it eliminates crime-prevention grants, reduces funding for legal services for the poor and cuts Human Rights Department funding.

Inmates in state prisons would be sent to local jails when two months remain on their sentences.

Transportation

-- Funds highway, transit, airport, rail and other transportation programs. $4.5 billion.

About $130 million of the transportation bill comes from the state General Fund. Otherwise, most of the funding comes from sources such as the gasoline tax and is dedicated to specific areas.

Environment, energy

-- Funds Department of Natural Resources, Pollution Control Agency and other outdoor and energy programs. $642 million.

Like other bills, some funds are used to balance the state budget. That money was found by cutting some programs and the possibility of closing some state parks.

Among provisions in the bill is one to remove restrictions on using electricity generated from coal.

State government

-- Funds variety of state programs, including governor, attorney general, state auditor and secretary of state's office. $600 million.

Bill cuts $312 million from spending allowed by current law and is $273 million below Dayton's plan. Dayton administration questions whether $279 million in the bill really is available.

The bill would freeze state salaries and reduce the workforce 15 percent by 2015. State spending also would be cut beyond other bills funding various state agencies. Most agencies under the bill would be cut 5 percent to 20 percent.

The bill also cuts public broadcasting appropriations, reduces number of assistant and deputy commissioners in state agencies, increases state worker health-care contributions,

Economic development

-- Funds economic development and jobs programs in several agencies. $138 million.

New workforce development grant programs would be created. Minnesota Trade Office, which seeks export opportunities, would be eliminated. Several economic development programs' funding reduced.

Agriculture

-- Funds agriculture and food inspection programs. $79 million.

Bill already has been signed into law, the only budget bill to reach that level, but the state government finance bill still being considered could make further cuts.

Taxes

-- Provides for taxes and state aids such as sent to local governments.

No tax increases are in the bill, but there is $202 million in tax relief provided through statewide property tax cuts and other tax breaks.

State aid sent to local governments would drop, including money to cities falling 29 percent by Coalition of Greater Minnesota City estimates. Duluth, St. Paul and Minneapolis aid would be cut more in the next budget and eliminated a couple of years later. Renters' tax credits also would be reduced.

Also, the bill would remove $60 million from Doug Johnson fund, which pays for Iron Range economic development programs.

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Full conference committee reports on budget and other bills are at www.revisor.mn.gov/reports/conference/

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