WDAY.com

WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published February 10, 2011, 02:27 PM

MN Legislature Sends $900M in Cuts to Dayton

Minnesota's Republican-controlled Legislature risked its first veto on Thursday, sending Gov. Mark Dayton $900 million worth of budget cuts that he criticized as a piecemeal approach to a $6.2 billion deficit.

By: Associated Press,

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota's Republican-controlled Legislature risked its first veto on Thursday, sending Gov. Mark Dayton $900 million worth of budget cuts that he criticized as a piecemeal approach to a $6.2 billion deficit.

The Senate approved the package on a party-line vote of 37-28, a day after it cleared the House on a 68-61 vote with three Republicans voting no.

Dayton stepped to the brink of saying he would veto the bill, describing the cuts to local governments, public colleges, social services and state agencies as "all on paper" actions that mostly wouldn't take effect until July. He said the local aid reductions would drive up property taxes.

The governor has said he would like to air all the tradeoffs involved in a deficit fix at once.

"Before you climb the mountain, in legislative vernacular, you listen to the people," the Democratic governor said during a Minnesota Public Radio call-in show earlier Thursday. "There's a reason this is a five-month legislative session in a major budget-setting year."

Dayton's office didn't immediately say how quickly he planned to act on the bill. The state constitution gives the governor three days to sign or veto bills during the regular legislative session. He can also let bills become law without his signature.

Majority Republicans said they aim to start downsizing the deficit immediately. Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Claire Robling, the bill's Senate sponsor, compared it to weeding an overgrown garden a few rows each day.

"We're trying to take a piece at a time and solve it," said Robling, R-Jordan.

Senate Taxes Committee Chairwoman Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said the bill is a "reality check" for Dayton.

The package would reduce state allowances for cities and counties, public colleges and social service programs, while requiring the executive branch to eliminate another $100 million in state spending before July.

Democrats accused Republicans of indirectly prompting higher property taxes by cutting local government aid. They also predicted higher tuition and hardships for needy groups such as abused children and people with disabilities.

"It appears to me that your motto of no tax increases is no longer on the table," Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbook.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk set off a heated debate when he criticized a provision that would remove a limit on payments to landowners enrolled in a sustainable forest management program. Bakk said the provision would send $7.4 million to out-of-state companies, after the state has already bought development rights to some of the land.

Three large timber companies sued the state of Minnesota last week over the caps on payments.

Democrats also warned that the immediate cuts could put unspent money for veterans and military programs at risk, even though the bill puts some specific appropriations in those areas off limits.

Republicans noted that most of the cuts extend reductions made last year when Democrats controlled the Legislature. Deputy Majority Leader Geoff Michel said he agreed with Dayton's assessment of Minnesota's financial situation in his first State of the State speech as a "horrendous fiscal mess."

"When you're left with a mess, it's time to clean it up," Michel said.

Tags: