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Billions Cut from State Spending

June 17, 2009

St. Paul, MN – The other shoe has fallen - and fallen hard - at the State Capitol. Just as he had threatened, Governor Tim Pawlenty has used his so-called "unallotment powers" to cut $2.6 billion out of a variety of programs, in order to balance the state budget.

His choices involve all levels of education, as well as aid to local governments and to health and human services.
But Brian Ruschie, executive director of the Joint Religious-Legislative Coalition, calls Pawlenty's priorities "disturbing," and warns that they will hurt those who are most in need of government services.

"Shifting problems into the future and cutting spending affects the poor disproportionately. Then, he's cutting spending in areas where we really ought to be investing more - and that's higher education for our future workforce."

Pawlenty had sworn not to raise any taxes, and says the overall impact of his reductions would be a state government operating on about 96 percent less. The governor decided to use the "unallotment" option after he failed to reach a compromise with the lawmakers over a budget-balance solution. There were better options, Rushie insists.

"I don't understand why we are making economic victims out of the people who have the least, while we've rejected getting just a little bit more from the people who are still doing very well, above $300,000 of income."

Particularly insensitive, adds Rushie, are further cuts to General Assistance Medical Care, a program in place to assist those with no money and no assets, as a last resort for medical care. The proposal also speeds up cuts in the current timetable by two months, Rushie notes.

Pawlenty says he is confident that people will understand his rationale, because government simply has to tighten its belt, just as families and businesses do, during tough times.

Specifics on the budget unallotments can be viewed online, at www.mmb.state.mn.us.

Jim Wishner/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - MN