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Labor: MN Legislature’s First Budget Bills Lack Revenue Solutions

February 4, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. - On Thursday, the Minnesota Senate voted to cut $830 million of spending in the upcoming budget cycle, and an additional $125 million from the budget that ends June 30 - a package similar to the House version that passed last week. The bill makes permanent the reductions to local government aid, higher education and health care that were made at the end of the 2010 session. The Senate passed the bill along a 37-to-27 party-line vote, with the Republican majority winning.

Eliot Seide, president of AFSCME Council 5, criticized the action.

"The Republican majority just broke its campaign promise to cut taxes and create jobs. Their budget cuts thousands of jobs, raises property taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars, and hikes tuition on students. Their top priority is to hurt workers while protecting the rich."

Seide says he understands that addressing a $6.2 billion deficit is going to be a painful process that will require some cuts, but that raising revenue must be part of the solution.

"The choice is clear, we can tax workers out of their homes, or we can tax the rich. We can lock libraries and parks and lose police and fire protection, or we can tax the rich. We can make college unaffordable for working families, or we can tax the rich. We can cut child protection, or we can tax the rich. We can abandon the elderly and disabled, or we can tax the rich. Those are our choices."

Senate Finance Committee Chair Claire Robling (R-Jordan) authored the Senate bill. She points out that this early budget bill only addresses one-sixth of the deficit.

"We know we're going to have to cut at least that much, so I certainly don't believe that this bill needs to have any new revenue in it. We're going to try to balance this budget without a revenue increase, but especially this one doesn't need to address that at all, because we are a long, long way from addressing $6.2 billion dollars."

Robling adds that the programs and communities affected by the cuts have already dealt with the budget reductions and were fully aware that the cuts might happen again.

The House did not accept the language in the Senate version, so the bill now goes to conference committee. Gov. Mark Dayton has said he opposes what he considers a piecemeal approach to balancing the budget, but hasn't said whether the bill would be vetoed should it reach him. Dayton is expected to present his budget proposal on Feb. 15.

Sharon Rolenc, Public News Service - MN