Minn. Lawmakers OK Cuts On Parks, Safety, Colleges

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota lawmakers approved spending cuts for natural resources and environmental programs, crime prevention initiatives and public colleges on Tuesday, as Republican majorities moved forward with a plan to erase a $5 billion deficit without raising state taxes.

The stakes included whether campers would have a harder time finding their way into state parks, whether the state will have a tougher time investigating claims of discrimination and whether public higher education systems will lay off employees.

A vote was anticipated later Tuesday in the House on a K-12 schools funding package that would bump up basic funding for schools while eliminating racial integration aid and curbing teachers’ employee rights.

The budget bills were the latest in a lineup making their way through the Legislature this week, even after Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton warned that he won’t sign the bills without an overall agreement on state taxes and spending. Dayton wants to balance the budget by raising taxes on those with the highest incomes.

“I’m still optimistic that we’ll have a constructive resolution,” Dayton said Tuesday. “We’ll have a lot to discuss, obviously, but that’s the nature of the process.”

The House K-12 bill was expected to be a flashpoint. It would eliminate state funding for racial integration efforts, replace the current teacher tenure system with an evaluation-based approach and curb teacher bargaining rights, while raising per-pupil funding levels statewide.

House Education Finance Committee Chairman Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, declined to give any hints about where he planned to yield in negotiations with Dayton’s administration. But he predicted an eventual agreement with the governor on major policy changes — even though Dayton told top lawmakers in a Tuesday letter that he would reject finance bills with objectionable pieces of policy.

“There’s going to be a lot of good stuff that we’re going to do in the education reform area,” Garofalo told reporters before the session.

Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, said she was confident after a meeting with the governor that he would reject the House bill. She said the integration cut and a provision capping aid for special education were “the two worst things in the bill.”

“It’s an ugly and mean-spirited bill,” she said. “The governor thinks this is an ugly and mean-spirited bill, too.”

Dayton said he was concerned about how money was being shuffled, resulting in losses in some districts and gains in others.

“I don’t know if that one is redeemable or not,” the governor told reporters.

A higher education package that would slice into aid to the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system cleared the Senate by a vote of 37-27.

University of Minnesota officials predicted the bill would cost them about $243 million in state aid, a bigger cut than the House or Dayton sought. Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, warned that the reduction would be “economically devastating” to the university and reverberate throughout the state’s economy.

Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, acknowledged that potential cuts to individual campuses “sound like large amounts of money” but said they were relatively small in relation to the entire campus budgets. Fischbach said the reductions “will not cut so deep that they put the universities out of business,” dismissing comments by Democrats that the proposal could force some smaller state schools to close.

Debate was also under way on a House version of the higher education bill, which would cut about $320 million from both systems combined.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said the cuts were deep but the bill aimed to protect students by preserving student aid funds and capping tuition increases. The House bill would limit tuition hikes to 2 percent at 2-year MnSCU campuses, 4 percent at 4-year MnSCU institutions and about 5 percent for U of M undergraduates.

“All things considered, I’m happy with where we’re at,” Nornes said.

Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said the bill amounts to “the largest cut in the history of Minnesota to higher education,” taking state funding back to 1998 levels.

Environment spending packages passed both houses, clearing the Senate 37-28 and the House 72-57.

House members removed a provision that would have allowed commercial logging in two state parks. Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr opposed the timber harvesting in a letter to legislators that cited a state law protecting state parks “without impairment for the enjoyment and recreation of future generations.” The provision wasn’t part of the Senate bill.

The Senate also approved a public safety budget bill that would preserve money for state courts while reducing crime-prevention grants and the budget for the state’s anti-discrimination office. The vote was 36-28. The bill would halve the budget for the Department of Human Rights, which could hinder its ability to investigate complaints of discrimination at restaurants, apartments and other businesses. Grants for community programs aimed at preventing crime would drop by a few million dollars.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Dave

    Stick to your convictions Governor Dayton! We don’t need the GOP moving us back into the dark ages.

    • thesuperman

      Dave. Absolutely hilarious. The Dems are dragging everyone back to trains that only go back and forth. What planet do you live on? Where have you been for 40 years.

      • Porkin' the Pig

        yo weinerman.
        you hillarious. like a pig on a stick. an Iowan hog. Bachmann’s state. pork weiners. No beef…..just pork. she likes pork. in many ways she loves pork. she is pork

    • Your Big Daddy

      Again WCCO doesnt give the whole stoty!

  • jimmy

    ” GOP leaders said they planned to host the governor for breakfast before Tuesday’s votes.”

    I hope the GOP leadership plan on paying for that breakfest with their per-diem. For crying out loud they get 80 dollars a day tax free lunch money. Now they want to wiggle a free breakfest out of the taxpayer.

  • Wilbur

    Can the Republicans remove the mandates for having children in special education and to have integration? By reducing that aid it will cause property taxes to go up in areas that have higher need for special ed and integration. Democratic districts. Politics ahead of policy.

  • Monica Beighley

    Cut all these rediculous welfare programs and special interest groups force people to get off their butts and work. Drug test all those who need assistance. Don’t allow those that need assistance to smoke cigarettes either. Then maybe they wouldn’t need assistance and wouldn’t need to see the Dr. that often as we are paying for that too. As far as the dark ages at least we weren’t in a $5 billion deficit…Just saying Democrats take note from the GOP and maybe we could eliminate some of that debt and celebrate the hard working who deserve it.

    • Ginger Shepla

      And, how about they make EVERYONE pay their fair share. There are many who don’t pay a dime in taxes and still get money back each year! That’s insane. I work, I pay taxes and I don’t demand hand outs from anyone else. Please dems, start acting like you really do care about the middle class, because so far I don’t see it at all.

      • Kool aid and on her knees

        GE – net profit $5.9Billion. Taxes – LMFAO they get $3.2 Billion back in credits. The list goes on.
        You want to make people pay their fair share????
        You morons slurping the syrup of the GOP who brought these kinds of taxpayer freebies for the super rich need to wake up. Soon you’ll be sucking food stamps your self as they laugh at you.

        GOP really has you brain washed even more so that the DFL has the libs.
        Keep swallowing that white cream dummies

        • Logic

          I agree with this one. The few do not give a rip about any of us, even if you support them. Wake up!

  • thesuperman

    Drug test all welfare receivers. Stop letting people into the state. Stop Section 8. I bet if welfare ends crime drops real quickly because gang bangers will not have a place to stay. I used to do apartment maintenance in section 8 housing and everyone has their drug dealing boyfriend living with them even though WINK WINK they are not on the lease. Nothing but THUGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Billy

    Make all these republican d bags who live in the suburbs in their plastic houses pay as they come into out great city of Minneapolis. I’m tired of hearing all these whiners complain about people on welfare this and that when those are the people who really need help.

    You can tell the character of a man by the way he treats the poor, elderly and indigent… These republicans are nothing more than dirt bags of the earth. I also love how most of them identify themselves as religious holier than holy people… when they really are selfish fools!

    • Southern MN Mom

      Dear Billy-

      And what do you think the GOP thinks of socialist leeches such as yourself? Socialism and socialists are the reason we are in the mess we are in. Keep whining pal. “The times they are a changing—“

      • Logic

        1991 – 2011 Republican Governors hold office in MN

        2001 – 2009 Republican President runs country into the ground.


        Get a clue. This mess was inherited.

      • Walker

        @ mom tut tut ,still name calling

    • Always in favor of less government

      Love how Billy says you can tell a man by the way he treats people and then goes on to call people “dirt bags of the earth.” Interesting concept.

  • fedup

    thesuperman, I know personally of a couple that lives on government assistance. He did not work in 2010. She worked for a while at a fast food joint, but got fired. They got $7000 back on taxes. Yes SEVEN THOUSAND!!!! There is something wrong with that…and yes they smoke and drink.

    • Victim Du Juror

      $5.9B and no taxes for GE
      $3.2 B in credits. Thats my money.

      You moronic stupid GOP chum swallowing stupidos – and you whine about some idiots getting a few thousand. Damnkit you really brainwashed kiddies

      • Fred

        Dear Victim. Careful there, there are a few people out there with their life savings in GE and other corporations that pay very little in both taxes and wages. Don’t go to overboard or they will find out who you are and make you a victim. Lol
        For that uneducated one that was called semi literate on another post this is for you. Think grizzylman and his guns,

  • Ducksworthy

    Bring back chain

  • Ducksworthy

    Bring back chain gangs and child labor. Are there no workhouses? Cut more jobs. We can complete the work George W. Bush began and totally collapse this economy! GOP policy is to reward the bankers and Ponzi scheme operators who wrecked the economy with more tax cuts and take it out on the middle class.

  • boring

    Bachmannitis is a disease of the crotch

  • Me

    Kool aid and on her knees
    maybe people would take you seriously if you wouldn’t make such SICK innuendos. You can’t even stick to the subject matter of the article, the Minnesota budget. Sorry no SUPER RICH here.

  • Me

    It was the democrat party that forced its way into the housing market with the affordable housing bills. Now we are all paying for that wonderful experiment.

    • Fred

      Twas bipartisan. Republican congress and Bill Clinton. It was more the loosen regulations on debt to assets that caused the problems

  • Hello? McFly?


    An appropriate sobriquet if there ever was one. The Democrats opened the door to home ownership. The Republicans relaxed regulations so that banks and Wall Street could come up with credit default swaps and mortgaged backed securities -the financial instruments that crashed. That is what we are paying for Einstein, not opportunity offered by the Democrats, but greed promoted by the Republicans.

  • joe motoX

    Hey Reps, both sides … you are supposed to figure out how to fix it ??? cutting funds isn’t fixing anything… that is providing less service and creating more unemployment, just snowballing the economic woes…

    making funding cuts ? a room full of 6th graders could do that…

    • Lincoln

      When your credit cards are maxed and you have no money in the bank a normal person would realize that we don’t need the lawn care service or the new deck chairs. We are in a hole, the economy is shot, I think everyone knows less services for a while is a good option.

  • Cindy

    Send to Dayton and then lets discuss building a new stadium. Unreal!

  • GSBully

    I’ve got it!!
    Spend less and then tax less.
    What a simple concept.
    Instead of cutting from the proposed budget, start at 0 and prove every dollar you want to spend. The pork would ooze out like the political slime that’s running the show.

  • Logics

    Without throwing mud, I will say it is a shame that higher education has to suffer. Hell no I don’t think we need to spend on a new stadium, but we certainly don’t need folks trying to make there way through college, most of which are on college budgets themselves, and then get hit with cut-backs that screw up the quality and/or quantity of their education. Sure the state will save some money, but it’ll come back around to bite us when our folks aren’t qualified to get the job our MN companies are offering which then hurts our economy AGAIN!

  • http://www.thedeets.com/2011/06/21/vikings-stadium-corporate-welfare-and-klout-scores-savethevikesorg/ Vikings Stadium Corporate Welfare and Klout Scores: @savethevikesorg | The Deets

    […] people become more aware of the possible cuts to higher education, special education, and healthcare, spending public dollars on a stadium for a private company makes less and less […]

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