Ask Governor Pawlenty about the state's financial standing and he's got glowing news: he'll be leaving office with a $399 million surplus. Ask the man in line to become the state's next governor, Mark Dayton, and he sees a formidable $6.2 billion projected budget deficit.
As WCCO TV reports, Pawlenty is right...technically. The state will be ending the current biennium budget cycle with a surplus, or "money in the bank," as Pawlenty said at the capitol Thursday. However once the new cycle starts, after Pawlenty has left office, the state is projected to be more than $6 billion (roughly 20% of the state's total budget) in the whole.
With a newfound majority in both the state House and Senate, Republicans see the stark deifcit as a go-ahead for deep budget cuts, which they say they were elected to do.
"The best remedy for this ailing economy is the growth of private sector jobs," Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said, "not the growth of government spending."
Dayton says these enormous challenges make it imperative that the new governor take office Jan. 3.
On MPR, former state finance commissioner John Gunyou talked about the difficulty of actually making a budget. "It's not an easy thing to put together...its not like putting together your family budget," he said.
Gunyou explains that if lawmakers won't raise taxes, that means 20% of the budget needs to be cut.
About half the budget is spent on high prioity K-12 education, veterans programs and public safety. Off limits.
"If you feel that way, that 20% problem becomes a 40% of what's left in the budget," Gunyou concluded. Not an easy task.
Amidst the coming task of cutting spending and raising revenue, state economist Tom Stinson did have one word of advice: buy taxable items when you do your Christmas shopping.