Rent Credit, College Grants On Budget Chopping Block

By Pat Kessler, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Three weeks after taking office, Minnesota Republicans passed a major budget cutting bill; a $1 billion measure touching almost every Minnesotan in some specific way.

And it’s only the first of many big cuts to come as the state faces a record $6.2 billion deficit.

The bill that’s making its way through Republican majorities in the House and Senate orders state agencies to stop spending — now.

“If there is money that is not being spent yet, it doesn’t mean it needs to be spent,” said Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove.

“A lot of folks carry a credit card — does everybody have to spend it up to the limit?” he asked.

The impact of budget cuts includes the very real possibility of waiting longer for your street to be plowed after the next big storm.

Cuts to local government aid could mean another property tax hike.

Democratic House Minority Leader Paul Thissen said the cuts are “backward-looking” and would push up property taxes and college tuition.

But Majority Republicans say they’re doing exactly what they were elected to do — cut government spending and do it fast.
“We promised you last November, last December and January that we were gonna come in, get to work and get our job done. We are fulfilling that promise,” said Zellers.

The cuts on the table affected just about everyone and include less disaster aid for businesses after floods and tornadoes.
Other example of who the cuts could affect:

  • State employee: Pay freeze.
  • Prisoner: Supply cuts to items like toilet paper or clothing.
  • Renter:  Smaller rent credit.
  • High school student: College grants might not come after all.
  • Veteran coming home from the war: Job search grants and tuition reimbursement may be in jeopardy.

Democrats say they don’t object to budget cuts, just the speed of them and they call these “reckless.”

“When the public said they wanted us to cut the budget, I’m not so sure that this is what they wanted,” said Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center. “What they want is for us to be thoughtful and prioritize.”

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